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Aurora magazine

Gene found to play an important role in empathy

A Cambridge University team has identified what makes women more empathic than men. The Genome Wide Association study is based on the analysis of 90,000 DNA samples. Starting from this, researchers found variations in chromosome 3 associated with greater cognitive empathy. Variations are only present in female subjects.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen's team had already prepared a test called Reading the mind in the eyes. The purpose of the test was to measure social intelligence and cognitive empathy from the eyes. Subsequently, the group deepened the subject, looking for a link between genetic variations and empathy. Genome Wide Association was born.

Scientists have sought polymorphisms within the genome that can be traced back to the ability to read the emotions of others. The DNA test revealed the role of the LRRN1 gene present on chromosome 3. The gene is mainly expressed in the striated body, an area of ​​the brain associated with cognitive empathy.

Reading the mind in the eyes had shown greater empathy in women. The new study shows that LRRN1 is very important in women, which suggests that the two things are connected. In men, however, correlation would be absent.
The researchers linked the results of genetic analysis with the presence of possible disorders such as anorexia and autism. It has emerged that some changes in DNA are associated with greater social empathy, but also with the risk of anorexia.