No, it is not a new type of iPhone, or video recorder, or measurement, or even the launch code for your nearby missile silo. Give up trying to guess what DRD4-7R is because it is so small, so tiny, that you will never touch it. It could be inferred that cats have it, but that assumption would fall short when they returned home, every time. No, it is not explicitly manifested in any animal on Earth and it cannot be found in any plant or stone. But it is indeed part of our human wiring.
Many times throughout my adult life I have asked myself Why am I so intrigued with new things, new places, new feelings, and new people? Why do I start to get restless over a long period of time seeking new adventures? I accepted long ago that I have this Marco Polo type personality; I love to inquire. I love to explore! Why? If you understand the purpose and nuances of goalkeepers in sports, like hockey or my lifetime sport soccer, then you’ll understand this one: why did I choose to, no persisted in playing the position of goalkeeper? What sane person wants objects hurled or kicked at them hard? Then the other day I read a fascinating article in the January 2013 issue of National Geographic magazine ironically asking and answering my same questions! This totally explains my addiction to everything National Geographic! More please! I read further. Ah, dopamine. It’s the dopamine! Hmm, duh.
For those of you with a slight variant of dopamine than perhaps I and others may have, dopamine “is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them. Dopamine deficiency results in Parkinson’s Disease, and people with low dopamine activity may be more prone to addiction. The presence of a certain kind of dopamine receptor is also associated with sensation-seeking” according to Psychology Today. Not so coincidentally, though I am not an “addict,” several of my extended family members are addicts…as well as my sister. I guess I selfishly stole most of it from mother’s womb before my sister could snatch any. I know she’ll argue this, but I was always quicker than her! And not surprisingly, several laboratory studies in Europe, Israel, and the U.S. have found that a lack of the 7R variant is linked to depression or lower motivation. I found this result very interesting.
As I continued to read, in my mind all the dots — from the broad picture down to the microscopic — were connecting and making perfect sense; perfect harmony like a homecoming. But not permanent! A homecoming and going! And my fascination with bird cages — naturally with an open door or no door — now made sense too.
Orchids versus Dandelions
Am I an orchid thriving in stimulating environments, or am I a dandelion that manages to adapt and survive in harsh environments?
Perhaps the better question would be could there be hybrids of the two? David Dobbs has written several articles on this gene and the genetic-cultural roots of human temperament, and is the writer of this National Geographic article that has captivated me. He explains:
“If an urge to explore rises in us innately, perhaps its foundation lies within our genome. In fact, there is a mutation that pops up frequently in such discussions: a variant of a gene called DRD4, which helps control dopamine, a chemical brain messenger important in learning and reward. Researchers have repeatedly tied the variant, known as DRD4-7R and carried by roughly 20 percent of all humans, to curiosity and restlessness. Dozens of human studies have found that 7R makes people more likely to take risks; explore new places, ideas, foods, relationships [guilty in the 1st degree there!], drugs, or sexual opportunities [should I say it again?]; and generally embrace movement, change, and adventure. Studies in animals simulating 7R’s actions suggest it increases their taste for both movement and novelty. (Not incidentally, it is also closely associated with ADHD.)”
In another March 2012 article on Wired.com, Dobbs further explains:
“This revisionist hypothesis is known variously as the sensitivity hypothesis, the differential susceptibility hypothesis, or the orchid-dandelion hypothesis — a term that Thomas Boyce and Bruce Ellis coined based on the vernacular Swedish term “dandelion children,” who seem to grow up okay in almost any environment; to that they added “orchid children,” who thrive under good care but wilt under bad. It is a young hypothesis, hatched 15 years ago and obscure for most of that time. But in the last two or three years it has gained enormous traction, spreading through behavioral genetics, child development, and anthropology.”
At this point in my reading and research I feel as if I’m reading parts of my biography or journal called This Is Who I Am and Why. It helps me at least process further and understand so many how’s and why’s, like Why have I been
single unmarried most of my life? Have I not been hanging around long enough in the right flower or weed gardens!? Does this explain my need for Zyrtec at certain times and circumstances of the year! Geeezzzz. It does make sense: like a love-hate thing for the beauty of new outdoor places, but then you discover all the annoying bugs, insects, reptiles, and yes, inevitably Medusa! No, I’m kidding…..about nature’s creatures. Hah!
On a serious note however, geneticist are also associating the 7R variant, and another: the 2R, back to our ancient ancestors in Africa 70,000 – 50,000 years ago. For a quick tutorial read my post Our Family Reunion.
Anthropologists suggest that this minority of humans are the reason mankind migrated out of Africa; to find new sources of food and a different way of life. Scientist do know that astronauts or cosmonauts, or whatever title the sponsoring group bestows on their explorers/adventurers, 7R is definitely found in their genetic code. They are the risk-reward breed and today they are found in many walks of life. On a spectrum left to right 1 through 5, left being pure orchids (1)….right being pure dandelions (5), I am firmly a two if not one-and-a-half. I most definitely get restless after long periods of routine. I am not saying I am ADHD and can’t focus — on the contrary I am very task-oriented — but I am most certainly not a permanent settler! This is probably why I have some, umm, excuse me….(ahhh-CHOU!) dandelion in me: I am happy to adapt….to what I want to adapt to….and as long as a few other Bohemians are around, then I will be first in line! Let’s go!
Are you an orchid or a dandelion? Or perhaps something in between? And why?
Footnote — For the full Dobbs National Geographic magazine article, go to this link: Restless Genes
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Today I think I’m an orchid: a pain in the ass flower who requires special care or wilts. But on other days, I feel like a dandelion – like I can keep popping up no matter how many times they try to mow me down. Thanks for sharing.
Renee, so you’re saying that your ‘beautifully high-maintenance AND a Special Forces trooper who rocks your world?’ Do you have a twin sister!? 😉
No room for orchid delicacy most days in my life. The wind whips around me constantly changing the landscape. Only a dandelion could survive. And yet, a delicate beauty tops her off. Roots are deep, finished off with an ethereal head that is completely transformed with a wish and a breeze. Quite the contradiction…thus the parallel between myself and the dandelion. Love your writing!
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We certainly are products of our family genes and our environment aren’t we?
Glad you liked it Tricia! Thank you for stopping by. Please feel free to comment openly and frequently…friend of 24 years. 🙂
What’s it mean if you choose a dandelion over an orchid; and you know you’re a gypsy? 😀 I’m teasing. More dopamine, please. I am addicted to my addictions. This was a very enjoyable read, and quite interesting, too.
Hah! I am not answering that trap question! Go read the NGM article and the Wired.com and orchid-dandelion hypothesis links, then YOU decide! LOL
And yes Victoria, I am so gypsy-Bohemian; I totally own it! Which makes me I guess an orchidephilia(?) of the exhausting or dangerous kind? 😉
Looking back, I’m a bit of both. Coming from a military brat background, I am prone to bouts of wanderlust and exploration. Based on certain hardships in my life through the years, I’ve learned that I’m highly adaptable. Having said that, there’s a quiet, still side in me…and an ability to create a home for myself anywhere. I think I inherited that ability from my mom. For me, home is about people moreso than place and regardless of where I go, I don’t lose that. As long as there’s a place where I can curl up with my thoughts along with a pen and paper…and get a little “me” time, home can be anywhere.
Oh my…Kitt, you must have grown up in the same garden as RAS/Renee! 😉
I’ll take that. She’s a cool person. I’m a big Renee fan. She’s the one who suggested I follow your blog. She said you and I might have several common interests.
I think I fall somewhere in between, and probably lean just slightly to the orchid side. I am generally quite adaptable because I’ve had to be, but I crave stimulation. I grew up an Air Force brat, and moved around a good bit after I left home. I really don’t have ‘roots’ per se.
The information you posted about dopamine was excellent. Without dopamine we’d have no motivation for sure. But in my own studies, I think it plays a major role in the problems we are having in America. If you will indulge me, I’ll post a simple video I made quoting some research by Dr. Ian Robertson (How Power Affects the Brain), as well as info from dopamineproject.org Although I made this a few months before the presidential elections in ’12, I think it exemplifies the BS going on in Washington, now.
Good YouTube video Victoria. Is dopamine fully understood and its significance in the brain respected? Those primate comparisons are so spot on — we still exhibit many of the primate behaviors in society today, though more subtle than most realize.
Thank you for your comment Victoria! 🙂
Thanks for watching, Professor. I think neuroscience has a ways to go before fully understanding dopamine’s significance in the brain and on our social constructs, but I think they have discovered the key to bringing world peace. It blows my mind that the brain is pretty much the last organ (an the most important) one to invest research in.
When you have time, check out Dr.lan Robertson’s blog on WordPress regarding the “10 Year Disease”. What happens to the brain when people have been in power for too long.
I get impatient at the apathy I see knowing that this information is at our fingertips and holds valuable clues to bringing peace and stability to our species. Neurotransmitter balance is essential for good ‘leadership’, but balance is not what we tend to see in those who hold leadership positions.
I read an article by Dr. Robert Sapolsky “Peace Among Primates” a few years back. After reading that I did the happy dance for the longest. It confirmed my own findings. The subtitle “Left behind” about the Forrest Troop baboons represents the problems we see in our own cultures. A culture that over stimulates testosterone (hyper-masculinity) which is prevalent in the Abrahamic faiths and other male dominant religions. It can also be observed in certain governments and mega corporations.
This behavior is so clearly demonstrated by the Forrest Troop alpha males as they raided and killed other troops for resources.
But when those greedy, out of balance baboons died off after eating tainted meat, the social dynamics of the troop changed dramatically.
I meant to say “the ‘section’ subtitled “Left behind”
Will definitely checkout your link. To add to your excellent comments, are you familiar with the Bonobo monkeys and how they achieve so much peace in their groups?
Yes, I am fairly familiar with Bonobo research, our closest cousins. I once saw a video where they were going at it hanging on a tree limb, lmao. What a sight. 😀
What intrigued me the most about the research was that humans and Bonobo’s are apparently the only mammals that often mate face to face, having eye contact, which can release bonding hormones-neurotransmitters..
I didn’t get a chance to read the link you shared in your article “The Science of Success” due to internet connection problems last night, but I’m reading it now and my mind is all over the place. I’ve got so much research in my files to compliment this article. *adds to my files* Fascinating research, simply fascinating!
It goes to show you what happens with religions and social constructs like them override nurturing instincts that took thousands of years to evolve, but have been effed up by these artificial and socially disadvantageous constructs.
And to ask the obvious…do you think/feel many of those constructs/sub-constructs are based in fear, or any of fear’s derivatives? 😉
Artificially enlarged right amygdala.
I just got DNA results of rs1800955(C;T) which had the description of “less-efficient serotonin processing, increased susceptibility to novelty seeking, may benefit from specific parenting techniques (and link provided to an article on Orchids and Dandelions).”
I had the same experience reading that article and others as yourself, in terms of feeling like it was written about my life, and especially that of my brother. Whom I’m also sure was an Orchid, but with different parenting and childhood experiences from mine, tragically suffered mental illness and addiction that cost him his life at an early age.
Thanks so much for your post, I enjoyed reading it immensely!
I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! I’m sorry about your brother. I too have gone through losing an immediate family member.
Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Please come around again. I love hearing/reading feedback from anyone! 🙂
According to 23andme, I have this “rs1800955(C;T).” Does that mean I have the DRD4-7R gene? Or am I missing some information?
Thank you so much for stopping by, commenting, and your question! 🙂
If I may first ask, who or what is “23andme”?
23andMe is a privately held personal genomics and biotechnology company based in Mountain View, California. The company is named for the 23 pairs of chromosomes in a normal human cell.
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Rs1800955 (C;T), 2.1 —> increased susceptibility to novelty seeking.
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LOL — WELL, that certainly sums me up Victoria! Thank you? 😉
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