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Stressed? Blame your genes

health and fitness Updated: Jul 07, 2010 16:24 IST
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StressFeeling stressed? Then blame your parents as scientists claim they have found an inherited gene that affects one's ability to cope with tense situations.

Dutch scientists at Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour in Nijmegen found that a gene, which people inherit from their parents, influences the ability to cope with difficult situations and keep emotions in check.

The finding, according to the researchers, explains why some people keep a cool head in even the most difficult of times, while others fall to pieces, the Daily Mail reported.

The scientists, led by Prof Guillen Fernandez, used scanners to look at how people's brains lit up under stress.

In this case, the stress took the form of a violent scene in a film, followed by a series of pictures of angry and frightened faces.

They found the amygdala - a "primitive" brain region that helps keep our emotions in check - was more active in those who had inherited the "stressed out gene".

Around half of us have this gene, making us more wary of problems and vulnerable to pressures, the scientists told the Forum of European Neuroscience Societies annual conference.

Professor Guillen said: "This individual genetic difference only surfaces when people are subjected to stress. This is the first time a genetic variation has been found that shows a different response to emotional stimuli only when individuals are stressed."

He added: "We are currently investigating whether these people are also more prone to developing post-traumatic stress disorder after experiencing a real trauma."

Stress is not the only emotion to be decoded by scientists. They have previously shown that the genes we inherit help determine whether we have a cool head or a short fuse.

Earlier this year, a study revealed that one in five of us has inherited "unfitness genes" that means no matter how often we pound the treadmill, we'll still be out of puff.