Ask The Best And Brightest: Are Bad Drivers Born That Way?
There’s an excuse for everything, and if a UC Irvine study published in Cerebral Cortex [via CNN] is to be believed, genetics might just be the reason some people can’t drive for squat. A protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is typically secreted while performing a given task (in this case, driving), helping facilitate communication among brain cells and helps retain memory. But the study has identified a gene variant which causes individuals to secrete less BDNF, hindering learning and improvement at task performance. The UC Irvine team, led by Professor Steve Cramer, recruited 29 subjects to drive 15 laps of a twisty simulated driving course, measuring how well they learned to improve their performance. The seven subjects with the identified gene variant performed 30 percent worse. “These people make more errors from the get-go, and they forget more of what they learned after time away,” says Cramer, who estimates that 30 percent of Americans have the BDNF-inhibiting gene variant. “I’d be curious to know the genetics of people who get into car crashes.” There’s currently no commercially-available test, so bad drivers can’t definitively blame their genetics just yet. But they can still take lessons, hang up the cell phone, or chant the mantra “my car is a deadly weapon” whenever they get behind the wheel. Regardless of your genetic predilections, once you pass a driver’s test, the safety of other motorists is your responsibility.
More by Edward Niedermeyer