Finally Cambridge researchers have found the reason why many men do not say ‘I love you’ but end up in the company of beloved ones because women have it in the DNA to read the mind of men and others just by looking at their eyes.
In a first of its kind study, researchers at the University of Cambridge developed a test of ‘cognitive empathy’ called the ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ Test 20 years ago to correlate performance on the Eye Test with variation in the human genome.
The test revealed that people can rapidly interpret what another person is thinking or feeling from looking at their eyes alone. Surprisingly, women are better at this than men.
Now, the same team, working with the genetics company ’23andMe’ along with scientists from France, Australia and the Netherlands, came out with results from a new study on 89,000 people across the world. The majority of these were ’23andMe’ customers and the results confirmed that women on average score better on this test.
More importantly, the team confirmed that it’s there in their genes or DNA. The test was able to identify genetic variants on chromosome 3 in women that are associated with their ability to “read the mind in the eyes”.
The study was led by Indian-origin researcher Varun Warrier, a Cambridge PhD student, and Professors Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, and Thomas Bourgeron, of the University Paris Diderot and the Institut Pasteur.
Interestingly, the test found males were not associated with genes in this particular region of chromosome 3. An independent team conducted similar test on 1,500 people who were part of the Brisbane Longitudinal Twin Study and suggested that the genetic association in females is a reliable finding.
“This is the largest ever study of this test of cognitive empathy in the world. This is also the first study to attempt to correlate performance on this test with variation in the human genome. This is an important step forward for the field of social neuroscience and adds one more piece to the puzzle of what may cause variation in cognitive empathy,” said Varun Warrier.
The closest genes in this tiny stretch of chromosome 3 include LRRN1 (Leucine Rich Neuronal 1) which is highly active in a part of the human brain called the striatum, which plays key role in cognitive empathy. Consistent with this, genetic variants that contribute to higher scores on the Eyes Test also increase the volume of the striatum in humans, said the study suggesting further study on this finding.
Professor Baron-Cohen says: “We are excited by this new discovery, and are now testing if the results replicate, and exploring precisely what these genetic variants do in the brain, to give rise to individual differences in cognitive empathy. This new study takes us one step closer in understanding such variation in the population.”
The study has been published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.