Understanding Genetics

All traits and personality characteristics, from height to fear of heights, are driven by a complex interplay of genes and environmental feedback. We now know that the lion's share of human genes are expressed in the brain and that almost all normal and disordered behaviors are polygenic, meaning that they are influenced (not to say caused) by genes. Scientists are therefore tasked with a massive but increasingly plausible mission: mapping the pathway from genes and mediating forces to the person you see in the mirror (known in biological parlance as the "phenotype").

Recent posts on Genetics

Thousands of Genes Are Altered by Aerobic Endurance Training

By Christopher Bergland on September 24, 2016 in The Athlete's Way
A groundbreaking new study reports that aerobic endurance training can alter 3,400 RNA variants, associated with 2,600 genes. These findings have widespread health implications.

The Blank Slate Controversy

By Nigel Barber Ph.D. on September 21, 2016 in The Human Beast
Behaviorists used to argue that people were blank slates in the sense that almost all of our behavior was learned. Evolutionary psychologists disagree. Who is correct?

Evolutionary Adaptations and Male Mortality

By Glenn C. Altschuler Ph.D. on September 20, 2016 in This Is America
The most social of the sciences, evolutionary biology draws on anthropology, endocrinology, and genetics to understand male aging, including the gender gap in mortality rates.

The Mothers of Mankind

Proposed self-domestication of our species raises the issue of who the domesticators were. Insights of the imprinted brain theory argue they were ancestral mothers.

Gender Equality Baffles Evolutionary Psychologists

By Nigel Barber Ph.D. on September 15, 2016 in The Human Beast
The fact that men and women were reliably different around the globe was a foundation of evolutionary psychology. This idea is challenged by rising gender equality.

Educators and Geneticists Should Talk

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on September 10, 2016 in How To Do Life
Education researchers act as though genes don't exist. They need to talk with top behavioral geneticists like Robert Plomin and to basic geneticists like George Church.

Why Aren’t People With Disabilities Talking About This?

By Emily S. Beitiks on September 08, 2016 in The Age of Biotech
Why do people with disabilities have to keep justifying their existence?

Practical Ethics

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on September 08, 2016 in How To Do Life
Philosopher Peter Singer takes questions about how best to spend money for positive change and thorny subjects like human enhancement.

What Do Doctors' Strikes Reveal About Our Need For Medics?

High-risk patients with heart failure and cardiac arrest hospitalized in teaching hospitals had lower 30-day mortality when admitted during dates of national cardiology meetings

Is our DNA our Identity?

By Robyn Fivush Ph.D. on September 04, 2016 in The Stories of Our Lives
Get your DNA tested for fun. But make sure you listen to the family stories that truly define your identity.

Schizophrenics as Hyper-domesticated Humans

As predicted by the diametric model of mental illness, if autistics are hypo-domesticated, schizophrenics are hyper-domesticated.

Subtle Distinctions

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on September 01, 2016 in How To Do Life
32 near-synonyms that shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

Your Cerebellum May Dictate How Your Brain Handles Alcohol

By Christopher Bergland on August 31, 2016 in The Athlete's Way
A study published today in the Journal of Neuroscience offers fascinating new clues about the brain mechanisms behind reward processing, addiction, and alcohol abuse disorders.

Have I Been Traumatized?

By Arieh Y. Shalev on August 30, 2016 in Unraveling Trauma
Survivors' narratives teach us about shaping the consequences of trauma.

On Closing the "Word Gap"

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on August 30, 2016 in How To Do Life
The 30-million word-gap "cure:" A confusion of correlation with causation?

A Downside for Trophy Wives: Sexually Diminished Husbands

By Robert D. Martin Ph.D. on August 09, 2016 in How We Do It
Increasing reproductive problems with age are by no means confined to women. Clear evidence of similar drawbacks for men has been widely ignored. Trophy wives pay a high price!

A Wolf Is a Dog Is a Coyote Is a Jackal Is a Dingo

By Mark Derr on August 09, 2016 in Dog's Best Friend
Coyotes, it turns out, are basically wolves—and so are dogs.

Canine Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

By Nicholas Dodman on August 07, 2016 in Dog Days
Have you ever wondered why some dogs exhibit pointless repetitive behaviors? I'm talking wrist licking, tail chasing, flank sucking, shadow chasing, and so on. If so, read on.

Mothers, Madness, and Mitochondria

The role of mitochondria in providing energy and countering cancer, along with their maternal mode of inheritance, makes them predictably implicated in psychiatric disorders.

Is the English Bulldog a Doomed Breed?

New data suggests that the gene pool for the English bulldog is too small to maintain a healthy population.

Why Age Has Little Effect on Happiness

By Nigel Barber Ph.D. on August 02, 2016 in The Human Beast
There is little change in happiness between ages 20 to 60. At the age of 60, happiness increases noticeably but there is a strong decline after age 75.

How Does a Lung Cancer Diagnosis Change a Life?

Does a lung cancer diagnosis lead to new ideas about lifestyle, stress relief and disease? Yes it does.

Fighting Lung Cancer Stigmas Saves Lives

How reframing lung cancer can lead to earlier diagnoses, more knowledge about the disease and maybe, just maybe, a cure.

Methylfolate and Resistant Depression

The evidence mounts that methylfolate can be an effective augmenting agent for depression. What do we know about this vitamin, and what are the questions and possible pitfalls?

Epigenetic Mechanism in the Cerebellum Drives Motor Learning

New research pinpoints how we learn new motor skills such as riding a bicycle, playing the piano, driving a car, etc.

Study: Genes May Determine What Diet Works for You

Your genetic composition might determine what specific foods are healthiest for you to eat, according to groundbreaking research being presented at a conference in Orlando today.

The Death of Biological Determinism

By Mario D Garrett Ph.D. on July 14, 2016 in iAge
A new study shows that genetics are not the sole factors that determine disease.

3 New Findings On Human Intelligence

The latest insights on intelligence, imagination, potential causes for the rise in IQ scores over the years, and how behavioral genetics is related to education and grit.
DNA Double Helix/Andrea Laurel/CC BY 2.0

DNA Tests for Ethnic Ancestry in Adoption: A Skeptic’s View

By Rebecca Compton Ph.D. on July 08, 2016 in Adopting Reason
How reliably can your DNA tell a story about where your ancestors came from?

Can Dogs Have Autism?

By Nicholas Dodman on July 06, 2016 in Dog Days
If your dog fixates on things and seems withdrawn and antisocial, maybe he has a canine version of autism – or perhaps Fragile X syndrome?