SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – New research conducted by scientists at the University of Utah has found that the genes inherited from our parents have more influence on our moods and behaviors than we may realize. 

Christopher Gregg, Ph.D., principle investigator and associate professor in the U of U Health’s Department of Neurobiology issued the journal “Cell Reports” in March of 2022, as stated in a U of U press release

The report explains the findings that certain groups of cells in the brains of mice rely solely on the mother’s gene that is needed to produce neurotransmitters in the brain, or the molecules that send messages from our neurons to our muscles. In the cells that are dominated by the mother’s genes, the father’s genetic copy remains nonexistent. Certain cells within the adrenal gland favor the father’s genes, where those genes are used to produce the stress hormone, adrenaline. 

Gregg has shared that this data will provide a clearer picture of how genetics shape behavior, allowing doctors to advance in their administration of psychiatric disorder diagnoses and treatments.

Following this discovery, Gregg and his team went on to demonstrate the consequences the information has on human behavior. According to U of U, they concluded that each parent’s gene affects sons and daughters differently. While certain decisions made by boys were influenced by their mother’s genes, fathers proved to have some control over their daughters’ decision-making. 

The paper’s first author, Paul Bonthuis, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Comparative Biosciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, weighed in on the matter, saying, “The revelation that maternal and paternal alleles of the same gene along the brain-adrenal axis could have disparate, or possibly even antagonistic, phenotypic consequences on behavior is an intriguing observation.” 

Gregg went on to add, “The brain-adrenal axis is a very important part of mammalian biology that controls behavior and affects stress, mood, metabolism and decision-making.” 

The team at U of U are excited as their new findings represent a first step towards understanding how routine behaviors and related health conditions ranging from mental illness to addiction to cancer and Alzheimer’s disease is influenced by our parents’ genetic makeup.