Most experts now agree that we’re all influenced by a combination of both genetics and environment in our development. EarthSky spoke with Dr. Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Mental Health, about lingering questions on nature versus nurture.
Dr. Giedd said that genetics provides the outline of who we are, but our environment determines what we become. He said it’s clear people can change and adapt far into their lives. He and other neuroscientists say that – although growth and change might seem more obvious when you’re younger, you’re always changing. Sometimes your genes are in control and other times it’s the environment.
So we always have the potential to grow and change.
This discovery makes the brain more complicated to study, but it’s the kind of thing that excites neuroscientists. Now Giedd says they’re looking to answer questions about what genes are important at what times, and which mechanisms are responsible for changes in the brain.
Giedd said this is important, because if we can understand how the brain is built, we can understand how to intervene when the brain has problems – social or medical. And now neuroscientists are getting closer to identifying the parts of the brain that matter most.
Our thanks to:
Chief of the Unit on Brain Imaging in the Child Psychiatry Branch
National Institute of Mental Health
Learning to love science. As a producer for EarthSky, Lindsay Patterson interviews some of the world's most fascinating scientists. Through EarthSky, her work content is syndicated on some of the world's top media websites, including USAToday.com and Reuters.com. Patterson is also charged with helping to stay in steady communication with the thousands of scientists who contribute to EarthSky's work of making the voice of science heard in a noisy world. She graduated from Colorado College with a degree in creative writing, and a keen interest in all forms of journalism and media.