Human World

Jay Giedd explores nature versus nurture and other mysteries of the brain

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:
Jay Giedd
Chief of the Unit on Brain Imaging in the Child Psychiatry Branch
National Institute of Mental Health
Bethesda, Maryland

December 18, 2008
Human World

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