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.

Recent posts on Genetics

The Aging Brain: When Friends Turn into Foes.

By Elena Blanco-Suarez Ph.D. on February 20, 2018 in Brain Chemistry
New study shows that supportive cells of the brain, called astrocytes, turn into enemies, promoting age-related function decline in healthy brains.

Unwanted Inheritance

Researchers are searching for genes responsible for multi generational addiction in families.

Children Molded by Parents' Early Experiences

By Nigel Barber Ph.D. on February 15, 2018 in The Human Beast
Why do children resemble parents? Since Charles Darwin's time, many of the brightest biologists who wrestled with this problem came away feeling bruised.

The Neurochemistry of Love

Love is a powerful motivator because it stimulates all your happy chemicals at once. But our brain evolved to motivate reproduction, not to make you feel good all the time. Alas.

The Psychopath Next Door

Under ancestral conditions, one’s social world was limited. So people had to play nice. Urbanization has changed all that - opening the door for psychopaths in our world.

Nature vs. Nurture vs. Gut Bacteria?

By Benjamin M. Seitz on February 09, 2018 in Hardwired to Learn
Psychologists subscribe to the equation, Behavior = Genes + Experience. New research into the microbiome is suggesting this equation is not as simple as it sounds.

What Underlying Brain Dysconnectivity Causes Mental Illness?

Stunning neuroscience research reveals a potential common cause for psychiatric illness identifiable in adolescence, and suggests avenues for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

A DNA Marker For Paranoia As Predicted

A new study reports that imprinted genes on chromosome 15 are implicated in paranoia, just as the imprinted brain theory has predicted from the beginning.

How the Earth Got Conquered in 2078

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on February 03, 2018 in How To Do Life
One scenario if we were to sanction genetic enhancement.

Why Some Dogs Have Floppy Ears and Wolves Don't

Floppy ears are virtually never found in wild animals, however a new theory shows that they are an unintended by-product of our domestication of dogs

The Meaning and Meaninglessness of Genealogy

By Nathan H. Lents, Ph.D. on January 29, 2018 in Beastly Behavior
Americans by the millions are pursuing their genealogy and bio-geographical ancestry. But what can this tell us that we don't already know?

Depression and My Family Tree

By Amy Dresner on January 28, 2018 in Coming Clean
I thought I was just a drama queen until I found about my family's history of depression.

Anxiety, Depression, and Other “Gifts” You May Have

By Jeff Corbin, MD MPH on January 14, 2018 in Rethinking Normal
Don’t blame your mother. It’s not her fault, or yours.

The Biophilia Effect: Exploring the Healing Power of Nature

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on January 10, 2018 in Animal Emotions
In an interview with Clemens Arvay about his book "The Biophilia Effect," he shows that nature is in our genes and humans have a natural urge to affiliate with other forms of life.

A Gene Called Beethoven and a Technique Called Crispr

By Katherine Bouton on January 05, 2018 in What I Hear
New findings that may hold promise for the prevention of hereditary hearing loss.

Are Over-the-Counter Genetic Tests Risk-Free?

What will you learn from that over-the-counter genetic test holiday gift?

The Dark Age of Tetrachromacy Research

By Maureen Seaberg on December 17, 2017 in Sensorium
Why is tetrachromacy functionality testing so stalled?

The Psychology of Religion

By Andy Tix Ph.D. on December 14, 2017 in The Pursuit of Peace
What explains why some individuals are more religious than others? Scientists interested in the psychology of religion seek answers.

Compared to Humans, How Good Is a Dog's Visual Acuity?

By Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC on December 14, 2017 in Canine Corner
Recent data shows that the visual acuity of humans is several times better than that of dogs under most light conditions.

Cultural Group Selection

By Glenn C. Altschuler Ph.D. on December 14, 2017 in This Is America
In addition to genetic differences and individual learning, a process called cultural group selection may help explain the ecological success of human beings.

Genetic Exoneration

Can we improve on how we help cancer patients and their families learn about their risk for cancer? New test says "Yes. Better than ever."

Untangling the Brain’s Complexity

By Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D. on December 11, 2017 in Brain and Behavior
Study shows how to tell which neurons are which.

Love, Trust, and Sexual Infidelity

By Eyal Winter Ph.D. on December 09, 2017 in Feeling Smart
Can a medication based on oxytocin treat sexual infidelity?

Should You Check Your Genes for Alzheimer’s Disease?

By Andrew E. Budson M.D. on November 26, 2017 in Managing Your Memory
Anyone can now find out if they have the most common genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s. But what will you do with the information?

What Makes Us Human? Dopamine and the Cerebellum Hold Clues

By Christopher Bergland on November 24, 2017 in The Athlete's Way
A pioneering new Yale-led comparative analysis of human, chimpanzee, and macaque brains offers fresh clues about what makes the human brain unique.
Judy Tsafrir MD

MTHFR, Methylation and Histamine in Psychiatric Conditions

By Judy Tsafrir M.D. on November 22, 2017 in Holistic Psychiatry
The MTHFR mutation does not mean that you need to take methyl folate. This common approach can contribute to worsening psychiatric symptoms as well as increase the risk of cancer.

Are Dogs Insanely Friendly Because of Their Genetics?

By Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC on November 16, 2017 in Canine Corner
A genetic abnormality which causes extreme friendliness in people also causes the friendliness we observe in dogs.

Masturbation: Self-Abuse or Biological Necessity?

By Robert D. Martin Ph.D. on November 16, 2017 in How We Do It
Masturbation has slowly lost its evil reputation from previous centuries. Human studies and primate research both indicate that it brings benefits rather than health risks.
pixabay at pexels

Humanity Goes Viral

By Matthew J. Edlund M.D. on November 09, 2017 in The Power of Rest
Viruses and sociopaths have lots in common.

Too Many Synaptic Connections in Cerebellum Creates Problems

By Christopher Bergland on November 04, 2017 in The Athlete's Way
Contrary to popular belief, a growing pile of research shows that too many synaptic connections can impede brain function.