Could procrastination have a genetic basis?



Many people have a tendency to procrastinate, meaning that they put off doing things that could be done immediately. According to the authors of a study published in the Journal of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience on July 3, 2019, this tendency may have a genetic basis.

The key factor that influences people to perform a task right away is the ability to initiate cognitive, motivational, and emotional control mechanisms. These metacontrol mechanisms seem to depend on dopaminergic signaling, so the researchers focused on the tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) gene. Depending on this gene’s expression, the subjects’ brains contained differing amounts of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

The researchers examined 278 healthy adults in their study, subjecting them to tests of action-taking after decision-making. The authors showed that the TH genotype was gender-dependent. Women who carried the T-allele had lower action scores and were more likely to procrastinate. They also had greater TH activity and higher dopamine levels, which may have increased their tendency to procrastinate.

According to the study’s authors, it is possible that greater TH activity and, thus, high dopamine
levels (as in carriers of the T-allele) may increase the amount of contextual information processed by
the working memory. The consequence may be a tendency to procrastinate. Although it is hard to
see the relevance of these results in clinical terms since the study was conducted in healthy
volunteers, it would be interesting to investigate the relationship between gene activity, particularly
TH activity, and the tendency toward procrastination of patients with chronic dopamine deficiency,
for instance in Parkinson’s disease.

Référence: Schlüter C, Arning L, Fraenz C, Friedrich P, Pinnow M, Güntürkün O, Beste C, Ocklenburg S, Genc E. Genetic Variation in Dopamine Availability Modulates the Self-reported Level of Action Control in a Sex-dependent Manner. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2019 Jul 3. pii: nsz049. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsz049. [Epub ahead of print]