ScienceDaily is reporting a new study by researchers at the University of Bonn that finds that people with a certain gene variant gave twice as much money to a charitable cause than those who don't have the variant. Participants engaged in a memory task and were paid five Euros for their time once it was completed. The researchers also got cheek swabs from participants so that they could look for certain genetic information. Afterwards participants were given an opportunity to donate some portion of their earnings to a charity.
It has been known for nearly 15 years that there are two different variants of the COMT gene: COMT-Val and COMT-Met. Both versions, which occur in the population with approximately equal frequency, differ in only a single building block. In the case of people with the COMT-Val variant, the associated enzyme works up to four times more effectively. Thus considerably more dopamine is inactivated in the brain of a person with this variant.
This mini-mutation also has effects on behavior: "Students with the COMT-Val gene donated twice as much money on average as did fellow students with the COMT-Met variant," explains Reuter [the lead Bonn researcher]. This is the first time that researchers have been able to establish a connection between a particular gene and altruistic deeds.
As it happens, I am homozygous for COMT-Val. (Hmmm. Maybe that explains why I work for a non-profit.) So all you COMT-Val's dig deep and contribute to the Reason Webathon. You know you want to.
And as for you COMT-Met's, show that you are no slaves to your genetic make-ups by overcoming your inborn propensity for stinginess and contribute too.