As Sapolsky is quick to point out, the proposition that genes contribute to behavior is an idea that catches the public interest quite rapidly. Is it possible that we could explain away crime, poor health, alcoholism, and other bad things as being out of our control? It certainty makes for an interesting read. I wanted to wait until this month’s issue of a magazine I subscribe to, Scientific American Mind, showed up to see if I would find any inspiration for my blog. Sure enough, yesterday the magazine appeared in my mailbox and I didn’t have to read very far to find a connection to course material. The front cover highlighted the article “Brain Code, Genes that Control You”. I thought this was going to be yet another article strongly supporting nature in determining our behavior by listing ways that we as human could possibly not be responsible for anything bad that we do, however I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading. The article does focus on the nature of the brain, however it does so by highlighting the work of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. At the Allen Institute, researchers have been working to develop an online interactive atlas of the human brain showing the activity of thousands of genes. The project’s goal is not to prove that our behavior is predetermined by nature but to simply organize data to help those working to decipher a massively complex system of interconnected issues in order to help better understand and ultimately treat diseases such as schizophrenia. They have already mapped a mouse brain and they are currently working on the human brain.
More information about the mapping done by the Allen Institute can be found here. Play around with the maps, amazing work.
The original Scientific American Mind article can be found here.