New research shows that everyday forgetfulness may be caused by a certain gene variant, offering a genetic explanation for people who frequently lose their keys, overlook details, or forget what to do next.

"Such short-term memory lapses are very common, but some people experience them particularly often," Dr. Martin Reuter, a researcher at the University of Bonn and co-author of the new study, said in a press release. This type of clustering suggests that they have a genetic basis, he explained.

The study, which is published in the journal Neuroscience Letters, focuses on the so-called dopamine D2 receptor gene, or DRD2. According to the researchers, everyone carries either of two variations of this gene, which are separated a by single letter in the genetic code — C (cytosine) or T (thymine). Previous research has implicated DRD2 in forgetfulness, so Reuter and colleagues theorized that one of these variations may make a person more likely to report everyday memory lapses.

To investigate, they enrolled 500 men and women in a survey. Each participant was asked to estimate how often they forgot their keys, someone’s name, directions to somewhere, and other everyday details that tend to get lost in short-term memory lapses. The researchers then compared this data to DNA profiles derived from saliva samples.

The team found that, compared to people expressing the C-version of the gene, those who had the T-version had a significantly higher average of forgetfulness episodes. "The connection is obvious; such lapses can partially be attributed to this gene variant,” principal author Dr. Sebastian Markett explained. "This result matches the results of other studies very well.”

That is not to say that people with the T-variant can do anything to reverse their genetic predisposition to these lapses in memory. Instead, the researchers recommend a systematic use of mnemonic tricks. "There are things you can do to compensate for forgetfulness,” Markett told reporters. “Writing yourself notes or making more of an effort to put your keys down in a specific location — and not just anywhere."

Other ways to improve memory function and stave off complications like Alzheimer’s disease include aerobic exercise; losing abdominal fat; drinking less alcohol; and playing “brain games” that include problem solving and reasoning skills.

Source: Markett S, Montag C, Diekmann C, Reuter M. Dazed and Confused: A molecular genetic approach to everyday cognitive failure. Neuroscience Letters. 2014.