Many of us believe we are masters of own destiny, but new research is revealing the extent to which our behaviour is influenced by our genes.
It’s now possible to decipher our individual genetic code, the sequence of 3.2 billion DNA “letters” unique to each of us, that forms a blueprint for our brains and bodies.
This sequence reveals how much of our behaviour has a hefty biological predisposition, meaning we might be skewed towards developing a particular attribute or characteristic.
Research has shown genes may predispose not only our height, eye colour or weight, but also our vulnerability to mental ill-health, longevity, intelligence and impulsivity. Such traits are, to varying degrees, written into our genes — sometimes thousands of genes working in concert.
Most of these genes instruct how our brain circuitry is laid down in the womb, and how it functions. We can now view a baby’s brain as it is built, even 20 weeks before birth. Circuitry changes exist in their brains that strongly correlate with genes that predispose for autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They even predispose for conditions that might not emerge for decades: bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and schizophrenia.
Increasingly we are faced with the prospect that predispositions to more complex behaviours are similarly wired into our brains. These include which religion we choose, how we form our political ideologies, and even how we create our friendship groups.
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