Decoded! Gene behind daily memory lapses

London, March 22: Do you often forget keys or glasses at home? Has leaving your mobile at odd places become your habit? Blame your genes for this forgetfulness.

Those who frequently experience such cognitive everyday lapses now have an explanation.

Psychologists from University of Bonn in Germany have found a connection between such everyday lapses and the D2 receptor gene (DRD2) gene.

DRD2 has an essential function in signal transmission within the frontal lobes of the brain.

Those who have a certain variant of this gene are more easily distracted and experience a significantly higher incidence of lapses due to a lack of attention.

“Such short-term memory lapses are very common but some people experience them particularly often,” said professor Martin Reuter from department for differential and biological psychology at University of Bonn.

Mistakes occurring due to such short-term lapses can become a hazard in cases where a person may overlook a stop sign at an intersection.

At the workplace, a lack of attention can also become a problem.

The psychologists tested 500 women and men by taking a saliva sample and examining it using methods from molecular biology.

All humans carry the DRD2 gene, which comes in two variants that are distinguished by only one letter within the genetic code.

The one variant has C (cytosine) in one locus which is displaced by T (thymine) in the other.

According to the research, about a quarter of the subjects exclusively had the DRD2 gene with the cytosine nucleobase while three quarters were the genotype with at least one thymine base.

They asked participants to remember how frequently they experience these lapses – how often they forgot names, misplaced their keys.

The results showed that functions such as attention and memory are less clearly expressed in persons who carry the thymine variant of the gene than in the cytosine type.

Participants with the thymine DRD2 variant more frequently ‘fall victim’ to forgetfulness or attention deficits.

The cytosine type appears to be protected from that.

“There are things you can do to compensate for forgetfulness; writing yourself notes or making more of an effort to put your keys down in a specific location – and not just anywhere,” Markett explained.

The study is slated to be published in the journal Neuroscience Letters.

IANS