Ever wondered how your wife or partner is able to read your thoughts and emotions just by looking at your eyes? Her ability to interpret may be the result of a gene influence, say researchers, one of Indian-origin.
The findings showed that the genetic variants on chromosome 3 in women are associated with their ability to read the mind in the eyes -- known as cognitive empathy.
The closest genes in this tiny stretch of chromosome 3 include LRRN1 (Leucine Rich Neuronal 1) which is highly active in a part of the human brain called the striatum -- which has been shown using brain scanning to play a role in cognitive empathy, the researchers said.
"This is an important step forward for the field of social neuroscience and adds one more piece to the puzzle of what may cause variation in cognitive empathy," said Varun Warrier, doctoral student at the University of Cambridge.
Scientists have built upon a study first performed 20 years ago, called the "Reading the Mind in the Eyes" test.
For the new study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the team analysed cognitive empathy in 89,000 people on this test.
The results confirmed that women on average do score better on this test because of gene's influence.
In addition, the researchers found that genetic variants that contribute to higher scores in the test also increase the risk of anorexia, but not autism, the researchers noted.
"We are excited by this new discovery, and are now testing if the results replicate, and exploring precisely what these genetic variants do in the brain, to give rise to individual differences in cognitive empathy," explained Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor at the University of Cambridge.