Is your child a worrier or a warrior?

It's in your child's genes, says bestselling author Po Bronson. Learn more about the COMT gene and your child's biological response to stress.

Video transcript

The COMT gene encodes two types of enzymes that are in our brain based on our genotypes and these both, these two types of genotypes are equally distributed to the population. So one-quarter of us have what’s called only warrior genes. We have the genotype that encodes for fast clearing enzymes in our brain. Half of us have one of each type of genes. We got one from our mom and one from our dad and we have both types of enzymes in the front of our brain. And one-quarter of us have what’s been called only worrier genes. We have only the slow working enzymes in the front of the brain. And what this explains actually is that some people work best under stress. Some people need to destress to perform better and to perform their best. So there are people who on a day-to-day basis in a non-stressful environment, their cognitive function is at its best. Without stress they actually on average have a 10-point IQ advantage over — the worrier prototypes — have a 10-point IQ advantage over the warriors in non-stressful environment. Put stress in it and it just flip-flops. The worriers’ dopamine over floods their brain. They can’t clear the dopamine as well — mental function goes down. And the warriors actually need that stress that raises their dopamine up to ideal levels and they function their best. So it’s literally like a single gene can explain a lot of why some people are just genetically designed to handle stress and other people are not.

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