Wanderlust is basically a person’s desire to travel and while most people assume that traveling is something we just either want to do or don’t want to do, it could have more to do with genetics for some than you’d expect. For a long time now many have referred to a specific gene as the ‘wanderlust gene’ but why?

The ‘wanderlust gene’ is the gene DRD4-7R and apparently, those with this gene are much more prone to risk-taking and tend to have more of a need to travel or see the world. This gene seems to be present in some people with ADHD and Schizophrenia as well, according to Psychology Today. You see, DRD4 is the gene that codes for the building of the Dopamine 4 receptor. There are several different versions of this gene but the DRD4-7R is one that draws the most attention, or so Psychology Today states. 

In regards to this gene Psychology Today wrote as follows:

DRD4-7r is famous in neuroscience circles for being a problematic member of chromosome 11. Palaniyappan et al. recently found that those with DRD4-7r and a diagnosis of ADHD had less prefrontal gyrification than those with a different DRD4 allele4. Gyrification analysis is a relatively novel approach at assessing neural development by exploring the extent of cortical folding in contrast to volume analysis, which has been done traditionally using voxel morphometry. Gyrification ceases and remains constant by around the second year after birth, but before this crucial milestone, gyrification can be disturbed by perinatal complications. As gyrification is influenced by both environmental and genetic factors, the reduced folding in patients with ADHD and who have the DRD4-7r allele, seems to suggest that the 7r allele could be involved in this hypogyrification4.

DRD4-7r is famous in neuroscience circles for being a problematic member of chromosome 11. Palaniyappan et al. recently found that those with DRD4-7r and a diagnosis of ADHD had less prefrontal gyrification than those with a different DRD4 allele4. Gyrification analysis is a relatively novel approach at assessing neural development by exploring the extent of cortical folding in contrast to volume analysis, which has been done traditionally using voxel morphometry. Gyrification ceases and remains constant by around the second year after birth, but before this crucial milestone, gyrification can be disturbed by perinatal complications. As gyrification is influenced by both environmental and genetic factors, the reduced folding in patients with ADHD and who have the DRD4-7r allele, seems to suggest that the 7r allele could be involved in this hypogyrification4.

Now, while that might be a bit confusing and doesn’t really have as much to do with wanderlust, it is important to know because this gene in itself affects a lot of different things and for some might not resonate in the same ways as it would for others. According to The Telegraph, this gene is present in somewhere around 20 percent of the population and those with it are more likely to seek experiences that release more dopamine as they are much less sensitive to dopamine than your average person.

Dr. Ebstein who has studied the DRD4-7R gene told The Telegraph as follows:

“I think overall the story is coherent,”

“We have evidence to suggest that the same allele [gene variant] involved in the personality trait of novelty seeking and impulsivity was also involved in being pro-risk in financial situations. People who have that allele appear to be more risk-prone.”

“Any one gene only contributes a very small percentage towards someone’s personality”

This meaning that no, this gene in itself isn’t the only thing contributing to a person’s wanderlust. But it might have some kind of influence on a certain level. It is interesting to think about regardless though and does raise a lot of questions. Why would it be referred to as such if it wasn’t necessarily the case and what more is there to the whole concept? Well, it seems this is part of a much bigger pathway that we need more of an understanding on, that’s for sure. 

I guess at the end of the day more research will have to be done on this before we can narrow things down for sure but what do you think about the idea of a wanderlust gene itself? For more information on this please check out the video below.

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