The Brain

The Brain

I have always been fascinated with the brain. In my college (university) application essay I said I wanted to major in Neuroscience. Then I never took another science or math course again. Funny how we change our minds!  Just yesterday I had to stifle a giggle when I overheard two young students at a cafe discussing what they might major in at university. But even though I am far from working in the field of neuroscience, I still enjoy reading about the mind. I just came upon this interesting article on genes by Neuroscientists Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang in the New York Times Opinion section. Here are some snippets that made me go hmmmm …

The article disproves a lot of debates about child-rearing (genes vs. environment, nature vs. nurture) because in reality, the authors explain, “genetic predispositions interact with circumstances to produce unique individuals.”  What the hell does that mean? Well, think of it like this — the genes you inherit from your parents combine with life circumstances, also heavily influenced by your parents when you are young, and lead to the unique YOU of today. It is nature AND nurture (genes AND environment) that influence the kind of people we grow up to be.

Also, some genes make you more predisposed to certain life circumstances, “About one-fourth of the variation in life experiences — from strictness of parents to difficulties with friends — can be traced to genetic origins. This finding emerges from dozens of studies.” But remember, the other three-fourths of variation in our life circumstances is not at all determined by our genes. So it is the combination of genes and external environmental factors that creates who you are today and who you will be in 10, 20 years.

And the last interesting factoid: “In general, neurotic people are more likely to experience negative life events, while extraverted people are more likely to experience positive and controllable life events.” Because genetic inheritance (programming) leads us to be more likely to experience particular environmental factors. So it is true that if you worry a lot, negative events will be more likely to happen to you. And if you believe things are happy and great, you will also be more likely to experience happy life events. Perhaps I am not a “lucky” person as I have always believed, perhaps I am just extroverted and therefor more likely to experience positive life events.  Are you more neurotic or extroverted/positive?

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