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

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?

Does Gut Microbiome Influence Mindset and Mental Toughness?

By Christopher Bergland on August 20, 2017 in The Athlete's Way
Harvard scientists have pinpointed specific gut microbiome linked to peak athletic performance. Someday soon, these findings could be used to benefit people from all walks of life.

Jet Lagged? Here's What to Do About It

Planning an end-of-summer trip? Here's how to protect yourself from jet lag!

Fated to Fear

By Jeffrey Lockwood Ph.D. on August 17, 2017 in The Infested Mind
Is there evidence that our fear of insects is rooted in evolution? Studies of human genetics and results of controlled experiments support the inheritance of the infested mind.

RIP Self-Taming Dump-Divers

By Mark Derr on August 08, 2017 in Dog's Best Friend
A new research papers argues that hypersociability is tied to domestication of dogs.

Blinded with Science!

By John Staddon, Ph.D. on August 04, 2017 in Adaptive Behavior
Hearing speech you don't like can cause physical injury. Really?

Nature vs. Nurture and Depression

Variations in the serotonin re-uptake transporter can make big differences in the lifelong risk of depression. How did this discovery happen, and where do we go from here?

Have Dogs Specifically Evolved to Eat Bread and Pasta?

Do dogs benefit from a raw meat diet? While wolves are genetically programmed to eat meat, dogs have genes that allow them to digest carbohydrates.

How To Explain How Genes Affect Politics

How do genes affect political attitudes and behavior? At least one guy knows how to explain it.

Get the Science Right!

What popular books get wrong about human evolution.

Is Genius Inherited?

It is usually assumed that genius is a completely inherited attribute but experimental studies vary. This study shows that strong motivation and inheritance play a critical role.

Why Women Have Affairs

By Martin Graff Ph.D. on July 12, 2017 in Love, Digitally
Engaging in infidelity might increase a female’s perceptions of her self-esteem.

Yes, You Can’t!—Why You Should Affirm Your Limitations

This title may seem unduly pessimistic—or downright perverse. But as a cautionary note, there are times when your dreams or lofty ideals must bow to inescapable reality.

Brain Fertilizer

The genes coding for BDNF are another area where researchers are looking at the pathology behind psychiatric illness, and finding helpful clues to guide clinical treatment.

What It Means to Be a Human

By Nigel Barber Ph.D. on June 29, 2017 in The Human Beast
From Darwin onwards, scholars struggled to define our species. There are two leading theories, but neither seems workable.

Do You Mate Like a Cavewoman?

By Donna Barstow on June 26, 2017 in Ink Blots Cartoons
If you've never used Darwin in your dating practices before, you're missing out. Cavewomen had multiple orgasms without even trying.

Sleep, Genetic Conflict, and Human Longevity

By Patrick McNamara Ph.D. on June 25, 2017 in Dream Catcher
Non-optimal sleep durations carry a differential cost for males because too little or too much sleep is associated with defective sperm quality and shorter telomere lengths.

Immortality

By Mario D Garrett Ph.D. on June 25, 2017 in iAge
The question is whether immortality is even possible...

Why Parents Make Us What We Are

Imprinted genes are critically implicated in nurture via their role in the brain and REM sleep.

Genes, Ions, and Other New Frontiers in Psychiatry

A gene related to ion channels common to many families with mental illness leads us to new discoveries and treatments based on actual brain pathology.

Twins With Two Daddies

By Robert D. Martin Ph.D. on June 22, 2017 in How We Do It
Paternity suits triggered by strikingly different fraternal twins have revealed bizarre cases with two different fathers. Split paternity is the visible tip of a sizeable iceberg.

Four Reasons Why People Become Empaths: Trauma to Genetics

Why do people become empaths? As a psychiatrist and an empath, I’ve seen that there are four main factors that can contribute to heightening one's sensitivities.

Aggression and Fear Can Be Reduced in Specific Dog Breeds

New data provides a possible alternative to breed-specific legislation to control aggression and fearfulness in dogs.

Domestication, It's Complicated

Cats may have been domesticated twice, or more. A new study shows that today’s domestic cats have two sets of maternal ancestors.

Mind-Body Practices Downregulate Inflammation-Related Genes

A new systematic review of research on mind-body interventions reports that practices such as meditation or yoga can downregulate the genetic expression of inflammatory cytokines.