Nature vs. Nurture and Epigenetics
Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene activity that do not involve direct alterations to the genetic code. There is a clear relationship between genes and traits, and the bridge between these two concepts is a protein. Proteins carry out numerous functions in the body, and genes are what code for proteins. These patterns of gene expression (protein manufacture) are governed by the cellular material?the epigenome?that sits on top of the genome, just outside it (hence the prefix epi-, which means above). It is these epigenetic "marks" that tell certain genes to switch on or off. It is through epigenetic marks that environmental factors like diet, stress, and prenatal nutrition can make an imprint on genes, and this imprint can be passed on over generations. The DNA sequence does not change, but the way individual genes within the sequence are expressed does.
Read about gene-by-environment effects (also called Gene X Environment or G X E) in the Champagne & Mashoodh (2009) article. The particular example you will examine is epigenetic programming due to variations in maternal care. Specifically, in rodent models, it was found that maternal behavior such as carefully licking and grooming the pups was tied to a decreased stress response and lower levels of exploration fear in the pups. Mothers that displayed low levels of pup licking and grooming had adult offspring with a heightened stress response. This study provided evidence that epigenetic changes can underlie the long-term impact of early-life experiences.
For this Discussion, consider the personal and social implications of Gene X Environment interactions. Also consider other gene x environment interactions future research will be most likely to discover based on your introduction to this new topic.
With these thoughts in mind:
Post by Day 3 your response to the following: Explain how epigenetics provides a new perspective on the nature vs. nurture debate. Also, reference the Champagne & Mashoodh article and provide an explanation of how the rat nurturing example can shed light on human parental behavior. Also discuss the broader social implications of this type of research. Finally, share your prediction of and rationale for what other Gene X Environment interactions future research may discover
Nature vs. Nurture and Epigenetics
According to Roth and Sweatt (2011), the epigenetic mechanisms that help regulate gene
activity in the CNS have historically been recognized for their role in...
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