Brown Bag Talk by Prof. Richard Ebstein on 13 February


Speaker: Prof Richard Ebstein

Title: An oxytocin receptor SNP (rs53576) buffers the deleterious effect of impatience on cellular ageing

Date: 13 February, 1-2pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


Leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is an emerging marker of aging at the cellular level. However, little is known regarding its link with poor life choices that often entail being overly impatient or risk prone in decision making. Such poor life choices can be examined using behavioral economic paradigms in the laboratory viz. the degree of impatience and risk proneness– fundamental determinants of decision making. We first measured the degree of impatience, risk attitude and relative LTL in a sample of 1018 Han Chinese undergraduates using incentivized economic tasks. A highly significant correlation was observed between LTL and impatience (delay discounting) in female subjects that was robust controlling for age, risk proneness, as well as health-related variables. We then asked if endogenous factors such as genes could impact the effect of impatient behavior on LTL. The oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene, which has figured prominently in investigations of social cognition and psychological resources, is a likely candidate to moderate the impact of impatience and risk proneness on LTL. An intriguing interaction effect between OXTR rs53576 and impatience on LTL revealed that the rs53576 G allele, often associated with beneficial social traits, significantly mitigates the negative impact of impatience on cellular aging. No significant associations were observed in male subjects. The current results contribute to understanding the relationship between impatience and cellular aging, and demonstrate for the first time that an OXTR polymorphism has a buffering effect on accelerated cellular aging in women who make impatient choices.

About the Speaker:

Richard Ebstein is Professor in the Psychology Department and the National University of Singapore. He received his Ph.D. at Yale University in Biology and previous to relocating in Singapore was a Professor in the Psychology Department at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Richard Ebstein’s research revolves around human behavior genetics, with the overarching goal of providing molecular insights into the role of genes as a partial contributor to all facets of human behavior. His work is highly interdisciplinary and combines personality, social, cognitive, and neuropsychology with techniques of molecular genetics. Major research areas include neuroeconomics, the genetics of social behavior, normal personality and psychopathology.

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