A glimpse into the genetics of positive emotions

Happiness can be elusive, both in personal life and as a scientific concept. That’s why this paper, recently published in Molecular Psychiatry, seemed so striking.

“A genome-wide association study of positive emotion identifies a genetic variant and a role for microRNAs.” Translation: a glimpse into the genetics of positive emotions.

Editorial note: Although the research team here is careful and confirms the findings in independent groups and in brain imaging and fear discrimination experiments, this is a preliminary result. More needs to be explored about how these genetic variants and others affect positive emotions.

“With relatively few studies on genetic underpinnings of positive emotions, we face the challenges of a nascent research area,” the authors write.

First author Aliza Wingo worked with Kerry Ressler, now at Harvard, and Tanja Jovanovic and other members of the Grady Trauma Project team. Dr. Jovanovic is a NS faculty member.

“Positive affect” is what the team was measuring, through responses on questionnaires. And the questions are asking for the extent that respondents feel a particular positive emotion in general, rather than that day or that week.

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