Being adventurous was advantageous

As humans migrated out of Africa around 50,000 years ago and moved across the planet, evolution may have latched onto a gene linked to risk-taking and adventurousness.

The DRD4 gene codes for a dopamine receptor in the brain. It exists in several versions, or alleles, and studies have shown that people tend to have slightly different personality traits depending on which they have. The 4R allele, for instance, is associated with being even-tempered, reflective and prudent. The less common 7R and 2R versions have been linked to impulsive and exploratory behaviour, risk-taking and the ability to shrug off new situations. Scientists think that migrants with these versions were better able to deal with dangerous, fluctuating situations and more likely to survive and reproduce under those conditions.

The scientists looked at the frequency of 7R and 2R in 18 indigenous populations spread along the routes humans took from Africa to Europe, Asia and the Americas. The further away from Africa they were, the more likely they were to have either of these two versions. Learn more here.

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