Friday, January 13, 2012


I've often thought that where we are in the understanding of neuroscience and genetics will probably turn out to be analogous to where map makers were right after the Americas were discovered. This article linked on Boing Boing reinforces that notion, as it looks like there's more than just nature and nurture affecting who we are.

This post from a year ago talking about talent included this quote from a BBC article:

. . ."Like a jukebox, the individual has the potential to play a number of different developmental tunes. The particular developmental tune it does play is selected by [the environment] in which the individual is growing up.". . .

It turns out things are more complicated than that, and the complication is epigenetics.

. . . epigenetic processes—chemical reactions tied to neither nature nor nurture but representing what researchers have called a "third component." These reactions influence how our genetic code is expressed: how each gene is strengthened or weakened, even turned on or off, to build our bones, brains, and all the other parts of our bodies.

If you think of our DNA as an immense piano keyboard and our genes as keys—each key symbolizing a segment of DNA responsible for a particular note, or trait, and all the keys combining to make us who we are—then epigenetic processes determine when and how each key can be struck, changing the tune being played.

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