The social genomics of positive mindsets: Molecular correlates of optimism

[Speaker] Akutsu, Satoshi:1
[Co-author] Kitayama, Shinobu:2, Cole, Steve:3, Uchida, Yukiko:4, Katsumura, Fumiaki:1
1:Hitotsubashi University (Japan), 2:University of Michigan (United States of America), 3:UCLA (United States of America), 4:Kyoto University (Japan)

Previous work shows that genes involved in antiviral responses are down-regulated while those involved in inflammation are up-regulated under threatening conditions such as poverty and loneliness. Importantly, this conserved transcriptional response to adversity (CTRA) may be mitigated when there are cues for safety and security including perceived meaningfulness of life (called eudaimonic wellbeing). In the present work, we tested whether a mindset of positively framing life experiences (called optimism) might have favorable molecular correlates. We tested a sample of Japanese male company workers and replicated the finding of reduced CTRA expression in people with high levels of eudaimonic wellbeing. We then demonstrated an effect of optimism that is independent of eudaimonic wellbeing. Optimism was associated with down-regulation of the overall CTRA profile and increased antiviral gene expression in particular. Our finding may shed light on the biological pathways that relate optimism to physical well-being.
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