- Genes we inherit and environmental factors both influence human behaviors. Scientists have recently discovered other underlying processes at work.
- So-called jumping genes, segments of DNA that can copy and paste themselves into new places in the genome, can alter the activity of full-length genes. Occasionally they will turn on neighboring genes in these locations. That activity occurs more in the brain than other areas, resulting in different traits and behaviors, even in closely related individuals.
- These mobile genetic elements may also turn out to play a role in people’s disposition to psychiatric disorders.
- Researchers are now beginning to investigate whether jumping genes help us adapt to rapidly changing environmental conditions.
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Your brain is special.
So is mine. Differences arise at every level of the organ’s astonishingly intricate architecture; the human brain contains 100 billion neurons, which come in thousands of types and collectively form an estimate of more than 100 trillion interconnections. These differences, in turn, lead to variances in the ways we think, learn and behave and in our propensity for mental illness.