Almost every other day, we come across drivers who just cannot seem to pick a lane.
Or motorists who love to erratically cut us off without using turn signals, leaving us all wondering, “who in the world taught them how to drive!”
Well, it turns out that some people are just born drivers, and it’s their genes that need to be blamed!
Learn more about how genes affect your personality and behavioral traits
The BDNF Gene and Driving
The BDNF gene contains instructions for the production of a protein found in the brain and spinal cord called the brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
This protein is critical for the growth and differentiation of brain cells.
BDNF also supports a person's memory by regulating communication between brain cells and keeping them in peak shape.
When driving, BDNF is secreted in the particular brain region involved in support activities surrounding driving.
If the BDNF gene has any errors, then BDNF protein secretion may be lower.
Thus, your brain may not be able to support the activity you’re involved at its best.
If this happens in the area that controls driving, you may not be able to remember information regarding driving well and thus may drive poorly.
Are Driving Skills Genetic? The Cereb Cortex Study
According to this study, led by Dr. Cramer, a neurology professor at the University of California Irvine, those with a common genetic change scored 20 percent worse in a driving simulator than their counterparts.
The study included 29 subjects who were tested in a driving simulator.
With the simulator, the subjects had to steer the car centered along a black line with their hands in the 10-2 position.
They had to steer to turn the car before the screen actually changed.
The tests were conducted over the course of 15 laps, during which all subjects showed improvement in their driving.
- Those with at least a single copy of the T allele at a position on the BDNF gene showed fewer improvements than those with two C alleles.
- When all the subjects were called back after 4 days, almost all had forgotten how to use the simulator.
- However, the 7 people with the T allele performed worse than their CC counterparts.
The T allele variant, also known as the Val66Met, causes a lower production of the BDNF protein.
This results in the stimulation of a minor part of the brain during certain types of activity, such as driving.
Dr. Cramer mentions, “Those with T allele make more errors from the get-go, and they forget more of what they learned after time away.”
But there also seems to be an upside to carrying the Val66Met variant.
Studies report a beneficial effect of this variant on cognition in people with Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.
Driving skills uses the region of the brain involved in memory and cognition. People with a variant in the BDNF gene have lower BDNF protein. This results in insufficient stimulation of the brain during driving, making it difficult to drive well. However, driving skills aren’t 100% genetic and can be improved with practice.