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Happy Gene Discovered by UCLA Researchers (And it's Not Called Cocaine)

A UCLA psychology professor claims to have found the happy gene.

The gene, the school reports this week, has been linked to optimism, self-esteem and mastery, or what UCLA explains as "the belief that one has control over one's own life."

Well, we have news for you, "distinguished" Prof. Shelley E. Taylor:

The Incas of Peru discovered this a long time before you did. And so did Bobby Brown. It's called cocaine. And it makes you feel happy and omnipotent. Until you puke and curl up into a deep depression.

We kid. (But really, that reference to "mastery" had us thinking the coca-leaf chewing South Americans of the Andes mountains -- for sure talking for hours on-end about the bad-ass nightclub they're going to open someday -- had this down for thousands of years).

Anyway, the research, forthcoming in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that people with certain variants of the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) are more prone to depression (and those without are the people you hate -- happy people). Taylor:

Sometimes people are skeptical that genes predict any kind of behavior or psychological state. I think we show conclusively that they do.

Her team looked at 326 people in the lab and found those Debbie Downers tended to have the variant of the gene associated with depression.

There is hope. UCLA:

The research implies that people would benefit if they could train themselves to be more optimistic, to have higher self-esteem and a higher sense of mastery to improve their ability to cope with stressful events.

And that brings us back to cocaine. And alcohol.

[@dennisjromero/djromero@laweekly.com]