IRVINE, CA - Bad drivers may in part have their genes to blame, suggests a new study by UC Irvine neuroscientists.
The study found that people with a particular gene variant performed more than 20 percent worse on a driving test than people without it - and a follow-up test a few days later yielded similar results. About 30 percent of Americans have the variant, which limits the availability of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) during activity, which helps to keep memory strong.
UCI scientists conducted tests to find out if the variant would affect an activity such as driving. The driving test was taken by 29 people - 22 without the gene variant and seven with it. They were asked to drive 15 laps on a simulator that required them to learn the nuances of a track programmed to have difficult curves and turns. Researchers recorded how well they stayed on the course over time. Four days later, the test was repeated.
Results showed that people with the variant did worse on both tests than the other participants, and they remembered less the second time.
Researchers said a test to determine whether someone has the gene variant is not commercially available, but are interested to learn if the accident rate is higher for drivers with the variant.