Does Dopamine Really Determine Whether Your Child is A "Worrier" or "Warrior"?

Posted on March 02, 2013 by Michael Simon

 The following is my response to Karen Ryan's Los Angeles Times piece (2/16/13) entitled, "How Brains are Wired to Handle Stress:"

One of the most important things that interested readers can do when reading articles that popularize ongoing scientific research is to first ask: How is what I’m reading NOT applicable to human beings right now? Is your child “bad” at clearing dopamine from the prefrontal cortex during periods of stress?  It's the wrong question.

The way anyone “responds” to anything is always about epigenetics, or the interaction of genes and environment. The study of the COMT gene has proceeded by studying a new strain of mice created in the laboratory that lacked the COMT gene (Gogos et al., 1998).  These mice were created specifically to (eventually) better understand the role of the COMT gene in how humans respond to stress. Humans and mice are very similar (genetically) but tales told of mice and (wo)men have to be taken with more than a grain of salt. The work of people like Mannisto and Kaakkola on COMT mouse biochemistry is continuing today, as is Diana Armbruster’s work looking at how children’s cortisol levels responded under social stress, based on the children’s COMT genotype. It is far too early to say that we know exactly the function of cortisol in the human stress response or whether we can talk about a COMT typology that holds under all circumstances.

Michael Y. Simon, LMFT

Author, The Approximate Parent: Discovering the Strategies That Work with Your Teenager

Posted in adolescent development, adolescents, Michael Y. Simon, stress, teens and parents, The Approximate Parent


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