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Scientists Find 'Telephone Interrupt' Gene In Kids
BETHESDA, Md. (CAP) - Researchers at the National Institutes of Health say they have isolated the gene responsible for causing otherwise polite children to suddenly exhibit extremely rude behavior whenever a parent or guardian talks on the telephone. The discovery could change decades of parenting techniques.
"Although the correlation between parental attentiveness in children and the sound of a ringing telephone has been known for years, we have finally tied it to the complex interplay of genes during this crucial early stage of brain development," said lead researcher Dr. Horatio Cooper.
"And if my mother were alive, she would say, I told you so," added Cooper.
According to Cooper, the TI*69 gene operates in a fashion unlike anything researchers have seen before. Rather than directly controlling impulse stimuli in the brain that create immediate physical response, TI*69 mutates other genes responsible for delayed gratification, leading the brain to believe that a particular need that had previously sat dormant must be met immediately. A child's normal lack of learned patience then causes him or her to act on that need.
"This is a terribly, terribly exciting discovery," said Dr. Terence Straite, director of molecular genetics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "We all have the gene, but as adults, we're able to suppress that need for immediate gratification, understanding the social mores of telephone use.
"Oh, uhh, pardon me, I have to take this," Straite added as he pulled a ringing cell phone from his pocket.
Many parental advisory groups, such as the Boston-based Maternal Instincts Unlimited, have announced their support for the research and are vowing to help publicize the information with their members. MIU had recently released guidelines advocating the use of the Toddler Tazer to teach telephone manners, and said that despite the findings, will likely keep that in place "for very important phone calls."
"Our goal is to not only help our members complete a simple five-minute phone call without being interrupted," said MIU president Janice Dedham, "but to also create a Pavlovian response such that by the time the kids are teenagers, they cry whenever they hear a phone ring.
"Truth be told, these findings simply mean that we have to work that much harder to see results," Dedham added. She then went on to show CAP News the prototype of a mousetrap-like contraption designed to help curb text-messaging habits among teenagers.
Cooper said more testing is needed to determine the role the TI*69 gene plays in other odd childhood behavior such as selective hearing during television viewing, memory loss during reprimand following an undesirable action, and the innate need to touch a sibling for no reason other than to elicit anger.
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