We all know what happiness is. At least we know what it feels like to be happy. But the moment you begin to define it, things become complex. And trying to measure a feeling as ungraspable as happiness seems as far-fetched as weighing a poem. Yet understanding what sculpts high spirits is essential; as essential as understanding feelings at the other end of the scale - such as depression for instance. Over the years, scientists have demonstrated that there is undoubtedly a genetic component to happiness, as there is to depression. A gene discovered in the 1960s and known to be involved in antisocial behaviour has actually turned out to have its say in human happiness as well. Depending, that is, on how strongly the gene is expressed and an array of sociocultural, physiological and anatomical parameters. The gene is known as MAOA - for monoamine oxidase A - an enzyme that metabolizes neurotransmitters which each have their say in modulating our mood. And since MAOA is located on the X chromosome, it is argued that the enzyme influences happiness in women while, surprisingly, it has little incidence on men.
More from Protein Spotlight
Tales From A Small World
Tales From A Small World is a collection of the first hundred articles which originally appeared on this site. Published in September 2009, the book is enriched by poems from the Dublin poet, Pat Ingoldsby. Learn more and order your copy online.
Journey Into A Tiny World
« Globin and Poietin set out to save Lily's life. But time is running short and they can't find the marrow... Here is the tale of their courage, fun and laughter on a journey that takes them deep into the tiniest of worlds.» For children. Learn more and order your copy online.
Snapshot : Tyrannosaurus rex and collagen
Fossils are old because they are made out of stone. Until recently, as far as science was concerned, organic tissues - such as bone matrix - had little chance to survive the passage of time. Organic soft tissues - such as cells and blood vessels for instance - had almost no chance at all. Two years ago though, a 68 million year-old Tyrannosaurus rex was unearthed from one thousand cubic metres of sandstone. The mineral from the bone of one of its femurs was removed and, to the scientists' astonishment, they found minute traces of organic soft tissue which had survived millions of years.
A little bit of praise!
“I recently stumbled upon your columns. Let me congratulate you on achieving the near impossible, for your articles have enabled me to successfully marry IT with the Life Sciences and better explain the concepts of bioinformatics to those who are not in the know of the field.
Your articles are very well written, lucid, and contain just enough information to excite the reader to want to learn more about the topic being discussed. They fall in a very rare category where they are accessible to everyone, from the undergraduate students to research students who want to have a basic idea of the topics being discussed. Some of your articles, like "Our hollow architecture" and "Throb" are outstanding pieces.
I would highly recommend your articles as a necessary reading in undergrad classes to get students inspired about the various avenues of research.”