Nurture impacts nature: Experiences leave genetic mark on brain, behavior

New human and animal research released today demonstrates how experiences impact genes that influence behavior and health. Today's studies, presented at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health, provide new insights into how experience might produce long-term brain changes in behaviors like drug addiction and memory formation.

The studies focus on an area of research called epigenetics, in which the environment and experiences can turn genes "on" or "off," while keeping underlying DNA intact. These changes affect normal brain processes, such as development or memory, and abnormal , such as depression, , and other psychiatric disease—and can pass down to subsequent generations.

Today's new findings show that:

  • Long-term heroin abusers show differences in small chemical modifications of their DNA and the histone proteins attached to it, compared to non-abusers. These differences could account for some of the changes in DNA/histone structures that develop during addiction, suggesting a potential biological difference driving long-term abuse versus overdose (Yasmin Hurd, abstract 257.2, see attached summary).
  • Male rats exposed to cocaine may pass epigenetic changes on to their male offspring, thereby altering the next generation's response to the drug. Researchers found that in particular responded much less to the drug's influence (Matheiu Wimmer, PhD, abstract 449.19, see attached summary).
  • Drug addiction can remodel mouse DNA and chromosomal material in predictable ways, leaving "signatures," or signs of the remodeling, over time. A better understanding of these signatures could be used to diagnose in humans (Eric Nestler, PhD, abstract 59.02, see attached summary).

Other recent findings discussed show that:

  • Researchers have identified a potentially new genetic mechanism, called piRNA, underlying long-term memory. Molecules of piRNA were previously thought to be restricted to egg and sperm cells (Eric Kandel, MD, see attached summary).
  • Epigenetic DNA remodeling is important for forming memories. Blocking this process causes memory deficits and stunts cell structure, suggesting a mechanism for some types of intellectual disability (Marcelo Wood, PhD, see attached summary).

"DNA may shape who we are, but we also shape our own DNA," said press conference moderator Schahram Akbarian, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, an expert in epigenetics. "These findings show how experiences like learning or drug exposure change the way genes are expressed, and could be incredibly important in developing treatments for and for understanding processes like memory."

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JVK
1 / 5 (2) Nov 12, 2013
Article excerpt: "New human and animal research released today demonstrates how experiences impact genes that influence behavior and health."

This NEW research compares favorably with works included in reviews published last year and earlier this year.

Human pheromones and food odors: epigenetic influences on the socioaffective nature of evolved behaviors.

http://www.socioa...38/20758

Nutrient-dependent/pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution: a model

http://www.socioa...53/27989
JVK
1 / 5 (2) Nov 12, 2013
"It now appears that alternative splicing is, perhaps, the most critical evolutionary factor determining the differences between human beings and other creatures." http://jonlieffmd...AXd.dpuf

Adaptive alternative splicings are experience-dependent
Excerpts: From Fertilization to Adult Sexual Behavior (Diamond, Binstock et al. 1996)

1) "...epigenetic imprinting occurs in species as diverse as yeast, Drosophila, mice, and humans..."

2) "Small intranuclear proteins also participate in generating alternative splicing techniques of pre-mRNA and, by this mechanism, contribute to sexual differentiation in at least two species..."

3) "That similar proteins perform functions in humans suggests the possibility that some human sex differences may arise from alternative splicings of otherwise identical genes."

http://www.hawaii...ion.html
JVK
1 / 5 (2) Nov 12, 2013
Had I not been banned from participating on the evolutionary psychology yahoo group, and also had most of my posts to the human ethology yahoo group blocked, researchers and laypersons would by now have realized the problems caused by those who continue to tout mutation-initiated natural selection, or any other form of mutation-driven evolution, when anything associated with such theories has been refuted by what's been known about the conserved molecular mechanisms of alternative splicings for nearly enough time to facilitate the paradigm shift that will ensure consideration of biological facts will soon trump any further consideration whatsoever of experimentally unsupported theories (e.g., like natural selection via bird predation of moths, or natural selection via snake predation in humans).

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