Among those in leadership positions, there are many carriers of a particular variation of the CHRNB3 gene, British researchers found. Apparently, it is somehow connected with the innate leadership qualities. However, there are works showing that heredity is not the main thing and completely different factors contribute to the high social status.
In 2013, researchers from University College London (UK) reported that they discovered a DNA site responsible for human leadership qualities. It was a variant of the gene for the acetylcholine receptor CHRNB3.
This is a receptor for neurotransmitters – substances that transmit a nerve signal to the brain. One of the varieties of CHRNB – rs4950 – is more common in the DNA of people in leadership positions. Scientists came to such conclusions by analyzing the genetic data of four thousand volunteers and information about their professional and personal lives. However, scientists estimate the contribution of the rs4950 variant to the formation of leadership qualities at 24 percent probability. The rest depends on other factors.
As suggested by Chinese neurophysiologists, there may be a special zone in the cerebral cortex, the stimulation of which can turn the most insecure person into a leader. So far, it has been found only in mice. Scientists pushed two adult males in a narrow aisle and watched their reaction. As a rule, such situations ended in conflict, and one animal replaced another. But it was not only his physical strength. Rodent behavior was influenced by past victories and defeats. So, the mice behaved more aggressively if they were lucky in the course of preliminary experiments, or they were overly cautious if they had previously lost in fights with alpha males.
The researchers hypothesized that information about these events is stored in the frontal cortex of animals. They infected mice with a retrovirus, which caused neurons to produce proteins, which, in turn, made nerve cells susceptible to light: when they were irradiated with a blue laser, they turned on or off. Modified in this way, the mice again began to push against each other. And it turned out that if you activate these neurons in the omega brain, then the animals begin to push even the strongest and obviously dangerous males for them. This increased the number of their victories and increased the social status of losers among the congeners.
But disabling a group of nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex of alpha males, on the contrary, made them too cautious. They retreated even in absolutely winning situations when rivals were much weaker. A similar area may be present in the human brain, the authors note. The study would help to better understand the causes of some mental illnesses. After all, it is known that men who consider themselves macho and often demonstrate their power over women are prone to mental disorders.
Unhappy alpha males
Health problems are common for alpha males in many animal populations. And it’s not just about the increased risk of injury. As Kenyan and American biologists have found, dominant males live in a state of constant intense stress. As a result, too many glucocorticoids accumulate in their blood – hormones that stimulate the body to work in minutes of danger. In a calm time, an increased concentration of these substances negatively affects the functioning of the immune system.
Scientists have observed for five years five flocks of baboons. They recorded the behavior of monkeys within communities and periodically measured the levels of testosterone and glucocorticoids in the excrement of males. It turned out that the concentration of stress hormones in the feces of leaders is on average several times higher than in the excrement of their deputies – the so-called beta males. These individuals support the leader and, as a result, enjoy the same benefits as he.
Moreover, the amount of glucocorticoids in the feces of the leaders was approximately the same as in the waste of the lowest-ranking males. It turned out that they experience the same level of stress, and in this sense, the position of the leader is not better than the status of “omega”. Earlier, it was shown that outsiders in primacy communities are weaker in immunity and more often suffer from heart problems and endocrine disruption. But with an increase in their position in the hierarchy, the monkeys begin to recover. As it turned out, until they become leaders.