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(An allele is part of the gene’s DNA sequence responsible for different traits such as eye color or curly hair.)
That might be the case with Emma, a 20-year-old student from University of Southern Florida, who just broken up with her boyfriend after a two-year monogamous relationship.
Upbringing, experience and culture may actually wield more influence than the risk-taking gene, according to Susan Quilliam, a noted British psychologist and author of the updated “Joy of Sex.”
“By the time she meets him, unless he is very young, his track record will prove whether he has acted on his infidelity gene or not,” said Quilliam. In those who have more, their alleles are longer and they are more prone to thrill-seeking.”
She said it’s not in her personality to take risks. Some of say ‘wow,’ that was a rush after jumping out of a plane. “In relationships that can be exciting and fulfilling and help the whole couple move into new areas.”
But not everyone is convinced a roving eye is rooted in DNA.
So should a woman have her boyfriend tested before accepting his marriage proposal?
Still, the study could have some interesting implications.
In what is being called a first of its kind study, researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York (SUNY) have discovered that about half of all people have a gene that makes them more vulnerable to promiscuity and cheating.
The study also strongly suggests that sex drive and thrill can function independently of love.
Those with at least one 7-repeat allele reported a higher rate of promiscuity — that is admitting to a “one-night stand.” The same group had a 50 percent increase in instances of sexual cheating.
Those with a certain variant of the dopamine receptor D4 polymorphism — or DRD4 gene — “were more likely to have a history of uncommitted sex, including one-night stands and acts of infidelity,” according to lead investigator Justin Garcia.
Maureen Finn, a 19-year-old television, film and radio major at Syracuse University, agrees.
The desire to cheat or sleep around seems to originate in the brain’s pleasure and reward center, where the “rush” of dopamine motivates those who are vulnerable, the researchers say.
Some of the implications of this study might be “huge,” and not just in the bedroom. “The big question is what happens in drug rehab if you have a long allele and others don’t? They might have different treatments.”
“I find cheating appalling,” said Coleman. It’s important for new places to live. “It’s the ultimate form of honesty, really,” he said.
When the brain is stimulated — drinking alcohol, jumping from planes, having sex — it releases dopamine, the pleasure response hormone.
Armed with that kind of data, John Coleman said he might be inclined to test his fiance and himself as well.
He then tested their DNA by oral rinsing with a special mouthwash — a buccal wash — and genotyped the DRD4.
DRD4 is the “thrill-seeking” gene, also responsible for alcohol and gambling addictions. Defying college stereotypes, Emma’s never touched alcohol and has only smoked marijuana once.
“Sometimes that overlaps with creativity, with entrepreneurship and wanting to push the boundaries,” she said. Others ask, ‘When is the plane going back up?’”. Two were encounters with guys she had been friends with and another was a fling that transformed into a longer relationship.
And now that she is in a committed relationship, Emma is certain she won’t be unfaithful.
It turns out Coleman is right.
“It’s like getting tested for STDs,” he said. Sometimes, going to the other side of the mountain means that something eats you. “It was something so new to me.”
“It’s rewarding and makes us excited and gives us pleasure,” said Garcia. There is a cost and a benefit.”
“It’s inheritable, too,” he said. “But the people with the DRD4 gene need more stimuli to feel satiated. “If you’re disrespecting me, something tells me you’re not going to respect me enough to be faithful.”
John Coleman, a 22-year-old from Syracuse, N.Y., has been engaged for the last two years and cannot fathom having sex with anyone other than his girlfriend.
“We are learning more and more about genes implicated in behaviors,” she said. “And it depends on how well-developed their impulse control is.”
But Garcia said the gene for risk also might have an evolutionary advantage, beyond producing more children.
In the study, Garcia instructed 181 student volunteers at SUNY to take an anonymous survey on their previous sexual behavior, asking them questions like how many sex partners they had and if they had ever been unfaithful.
“Having some individuals who have wanderlust and want to see what’s on the other side mountain.
“Not everyone with the gene is promiscuous and not everyone who is promiscuous will have that gene.”
“Certain people are vulnerable to affairs, but in the end, it’s about personal choice,” said Jenn Berman, a psychotherapist and host of “The Love and Sex Show” on Cosmo Radio. “Just as height varies, the amount of information in the gene varies. “If your parents have it, you have it.”
And can’t risk-taking be a good thing?
She wanted to try something different, so she slept with three men in one month. “Every time a genetic study comes out, responsible scientists also stress that we have choice — nature and nurture,” she said.
His team discovered that there is a variation in the thrill-seeking gene and those with much longer alleles are more prone to, well, getting prone. But it’s also risk-taking. “If he has been unfaithful in the past, he is likely to do it in the future.”
“I’d never done anything like that before,” said Emma, who did not want to reveal her last name. “There’s got to be something going on in your head to cheat.”
The gene evolved about 30,000 to 50,000 years ago when humans were moving out of Africa.
ABC’s On Campus reporters Sierra Jiminez of Syracuse University and Meg Wagner of University of Florida contributed to this story.
“I mean if you meet a guy at a party and he’s making out with three other girls, that’s a hint,” she said. The gene can influence the brain’s chemistry and subsequently, an individual’s behavior.
“It turns out everyone has got the gene,” said Garcia, who is a doctoral fellow in the laboratory of evolutionary anthropology and health at SUNY Binghamton