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

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.
Photo by Lynn Redmile

Musical Talent: A Mix of Genes and Environments

By Nancy L. Segal Ph.D. on October 30, 2017 in Twofold
Why are you musical—or not?
(Band of Brothers, Sterling Farms Golf Course, Stamford CT., standing as one. Greg O’Brien is second from right.)

Standing as One in Support of Alzheimer's

By Greg O'Brien on October 30, 2017 in On Pluto
If there ever were a bipartisan issue to stand on today, it is for a cure for Alzheimer’s, to drive a knife through this demon. We are all at risk, but we are not alone.

Our Curious Fascination With Serial Killers

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on October 23, 2017 in Wicked Deeds
Serial killers are larger-than-life popular culture celebrities due to the efforts of law enforcement authorities and the media which feed the public’s appetite for the macabre.

8 Great Books on the Evolved Psychology of Sex and Passion

By Kevin Bennett on October 22, 2017 in Modern Minds
Every intensely emotional thing you do is inked to an adaptive problem and solution. These books will open doors.

And the Nobel Prize Goes to…Circadian Rhythms

Why the 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology has circadian rhythms researchers buzzing with excitement.

Move Over, Gray Matter—White Matter Is Taking Center Stage

By Christopher Bergland on October 17, 2017 in The Athlete's Way
One of the largest studies of white matter (which enables communication between brain regions) ever was published today by scientists from the University of Southern California.

Collective Intelligence in the Holocene: 7

By Michael Hogan Ph.D. on October 13, 2017 in In One Lifespan
Notwithstanding the uniqueness of human beings, a focus on the broadest timescale of analysis reminds us that evolution unites Homo sapiens with all other living systems.

Nature Versus Nurture: Where We Are in 2017

A lot has changed in our understanding of the timeless nature-nurture debate. Find out where we are now.

Your Neanderthal Quotient and Your Personality

Thought the Neanderthals were extinct? Think again. Their DNA is likely alive in all the cells of your body. What’s more? This heritage may affect how you act each day.

How Microbes In Our Gut Can Affect Our Emotions

Gene-regulating molecules in the brain are under the influence.

Depression and Mood Disorders

Most of us have learned to cope with mood swings but at any one time almost 10 percent of the U.S. adult population experience depression. Look for the signs and seek help.

Why Would Anyone Run For Office? It’s In Their Genes?

By Gregg R. Murray Ph.D. on October 01, 2017 in Caveman Politics
For the life of me I’ve never understood why someone would want to run for office. This may help explain it.

Mitochondria and Mood

By Peter Bongiorno ND, LAc on September 29, 2017 in Inner Source
What are the energy packs of your cells, and could these be the underlying cause of mental health problems?

Using Big Data to Study Psychology

By Art Markman Ph.D. on September 28, 2017 in Ulterior Motives
There is a lot of discussion about the value of big data for companies. Can big data help science as well?

Why You Hate Exercise

By Temma Ehrenfeld on September 26, 2017 in Open Gently
If you hate exercise, look harder for ways to make it pleasant--get out in sunshine or find a buddy.

Why Does God Want to Kill Me?

By Mario D Garrett Ph.D. on September 20, 2017 in iAge
We are meant to die. It is nature's way of making our species survive. But our strategy as humans has been to develop a large brain and to live longer, to which there's a downside.

Are Your Food Cravings Genetic?

By Sunny Sea Gold on September 07, 2017 in Weighty Truths
Could our DNA drive us to naturally eat more bread, butter, or chocolate? It sure looks that way.

An "Intelligence Pill"

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on September 05, 2017 in How To Do Life
One of humankind's most world-improving goals.

On The Evolution of the Serotonin Transporter Gene

By Emily Deans M.D. on September 04, 2017 in Evolutionary Psychiatry
If behavior can be predicted by genotype, we have ethical challenges for the future we can start thinking about now.

Is Vulnerability to Stress Coded in Our Genes?

By Emily Deans M.D. on September 04, 2017 in Evolutionary Psychiatry
The relationship between stress and depression is complicated, but some of it is coded into our genes.
Image by Diane Tober

The Debate Over an Egg Donor Registry

By Diane M. Tober Ph.D. on August 31, 2017 in The Age of Biotech
Is the quest for an egg donor registry emotional? Or a matter of scientific/medical ethics?