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Ginger Thursday: The Stereotype’s a Reality?

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Oh crap! I almost missed Ginger Thursday! The bookstore I work at is undergoing a HUGE remodel and I’ve been working 8 hour days all week just unpacking and organizing things so my brain’s a little scattered. Anyway, I didn’t want to let my favorite day of the week slip past me without a fun bit of ginger trivia for you all!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that most people have heard the stereotype that redheads are firey-tempered, stubborn, and passionate. This is sometimes a very good thing and sometimes a veeery bad thing, but it is a stereotype that has followed us for thousands of years and is still prevalent today. In doing a little research on ginger genetics, I stumbled across a paper discussing neuromelanin in the brain. The MC1R mutation causes a shift from the production of eumalanin (which is what the bulk of the population produces which allows them to tan) to pheomelanin which causes red hair and a general inability to do any more than freckle intensely. This also affects melanin in the brain, specifically in the portion called the substantia nigra. This is the area of the brain which is attacked by Parkinson’s Disease (next week’s topic). This section is named for its darker color where dopaminergic neurons contain higher levels of melanin. This portion of the brain deals with motor control, reward seeking, and addiction amongst other things. Dopaminergic neurons specifically are responsible for a number of things, but most importantly to our current subject it regulates mood.

So could redheads really be predisposed to acting out our long-held stereotype? If the dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra are modified from their common state by a decrease in neuromelanin caused by the shift from eumelanin to pheomelanin, could that be the cause of our tempers and our historic fire? Just something to think about. I know I’ll be looking a lot more into this in the future.

And not to disappoint, here is my favorite redhead for the day:

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