Ever wonder what drives some people to every splatter fest that reaches the theater, while others flee the room any time a zombie flashes on the television? Researchers at the University of Bonn have discovered that a gene may be responsible for your fear of monster movies. Click through for more on the study, and the evolutionary benefits of the heebie jeebies.Researchers identified a particular variation of the COMT gene, which affects the brain's ability to keep emotional responses in check. They tested 96 women for this variant and then showed them a series of pleasant, neutral, and aversive images:
The scientists found that those carrying two copies of it were significantly more startled by frightening images than others. By contrast, those who had one copy of the gene and one copy of another version were able to keep their emotions in check far more readily.
This discovery explains more than your irrational fear of killer clowns. This version of the COMT gene is absent in our primate cousins, offering clues to the path of human evolution:
[Researcher Christian Montag] said the propensity to scare more easily could have offered an evolutionary advantage to humans. While bravery appears to be prized in the animal kingdom, recklessness could have been a disadvantage to humans with their larger mental capacity to go away and figure a problem out. Mr Montag said: "It was an advantage to be more anxious in a dangerous environment."
Horror film gene that makes some scream while others laugh [Daily Telegraph]