Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bad Driving May Have Genetic Basis, Study Finds

Date:
October 28, 2009
Source:
University of California - Irvine
Summary:
Bad drivers may in part have their genes to blame, suggests a new study by neuroscientists. People with a particular gene variant performed more than 20 percent worse on a driving test than people without it -- and a follow-up test a few days later yielded similar results. About 30 percent of Americans have the variant.

Bad drivers may in part have their genes to blame, suggests a new study by UC Irvine neuroscientists.
Credit: iStockphoto

Bad drivers may in part have their genes to blame, suggests a new study by UC Irvine neuroscientists.

People with a particular gene variant performed more than 20 percent worse on a driving test than people without it -- and a follow-up test a few days later yielded similar results. About 30 percent of Americans have the variant.

"These people make more errors from the get-go, and they forget more of what they learned after time away," said Dr. Steven Cramer, neurology associate professor and senior author of the study published recently in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

This gene variant limits the availability of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor during activity. BDNF keeps memory strong by supporting communication among brain cells and keeping them functioning optimally. When a person is engaged in a particular task, BDNF is secreted in the brain area connected with that activity to help the body respond.

Previous studies have shown that in people with the variant, a smaller portion of the brain is stimulated when doing a task than in those with a normal BDNF gene. People with the variant also don't recover as well after a stroke. Given these differences, the UCI scientists wondered: Could the variant affect an activity such as driving?

"We wanted to study motor behavior, something more complex than finger-tapping," said Stephanie McHughen, graduate student and lead author of the study. "Driving seemed like a good choice because it has a learning curve and it's something most people know how to do."

The driving test was taken by 29 people -- 22 without the gene variant and seven with it. They were asked to drive 15 laps on a simulator that required them to learn the nuances of a track programmed to have difficult curves and turns. Researchers recorded how well they stayed on the course over time. Four days later, the test was repeated.

Results showed that people with the variant did worse on both tests than the other participants, and they remembered less the second time. "Behavior derives from dozens and dozens of neurophysiologic events, so it's somewhat surprising this exercise bore fruit," Cramer said.

The gene variant isn't always bad, though. Studies have found that people with it maintain their usual mental sharpness longer than those without it when neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Huntington's and multiple sclerosis are present.

"It's as if nature is trying to determine the best approach," Cramer said. "If you want to learn a new skill or have had a stroke and need to regenerate brain cells, there's evidence that having the variant is not good. But if you've got a disease that affects cognitive function, there's evidence it can act in your favor. The variant brings a different balance between flexibility and stability."

A test to determine whether someone has the gene variant is not commercially available.

"I'd be curious to know the genetics of people who get into car crashes," Cramer said. "I wonder if the accident rate is higher for drivers with the variant."

In addition to Cramer and McHughen, Paul Rodriguez, Laura Marchal-Crespo and Vincent Procaccio of UCI worked on the study, along with researchers from the University of Florida. The National Institutes of Health funded the study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Irvine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Irvine. "Bad Driving May Have Genetic Basis, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 October 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091028134637.htm>.
University of California - Irvine. (2009, October 28). Bad Driving May Have Genetic Basis, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091028134637.htm
University of California - Irvine. "Bad Driving May Have Genetic Basis, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091028134637.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Newsy (July 23, 2014) An 8-year-old boy helped his younger brother, who has a rare genetic condition that's confined him to a wheelchair, finish a triathlon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The 83 new genetic markers could open dozens of new avenues for schizophrenia treatment research. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Newsy (July 18, 2014) Yale researchers tested 135 men and women, and it was only obese women who were deemed to have "impaired associative learning." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins