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Causes of Autism Found January 26, 2015

Posted by tkcollier in health, Science & Technology.
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Bird picture by autistic artist David Barth 2008

Bird picture by autistic artist David Barth 2008

“Let’s suppose you buy a book, we’re used to getting books where the cover’s on right, the pages are in order, and they tell a continuous story. But imagine a publisher that duplicated his pages, dropped some pages, changed the order of the pages. That’s what happens in the human genome. That’s copy number variation.”

This form of mutation turns out to appear with surprising frequency in the human genetic text. Wigler’s group first glimpsed the phenomenon in cancer cells, but his hunch was that similar “publishing” errors might also play a role in diseases like autism. Sure enough, when the researchers examined the genomes of people with autism, they often found weird, large-scale duplications or deletions of DNA—mutations not present in the mother or father. The fact that they were not inherited strongly suggested that they were recent corruptions of the genetic text, almost certainly arising in the sperm or egg cells of the parents.

“The evolutionary twist on this whole story, is that our genome is really set up to fail, in the sense that we’re prone to delete and duplicate. The flip side of it is that that selective disadvantage is offset by the emergence of novel genes that have conferred an advantage to us cognitively.”

via Genetic Advances Provide Insight into the Causes of Autism | MIT Technology Review.

New Insights Into Pleasure & Addiction June 25, 2011

Posted by tkcollier in health, Lifestyle, Religion.
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Do you, like many, think that drug addicts become drug addicts be­cause they derive greater reward from getting high than others? The biology says no. They actually seem to want it more but like it less.  The scientific definition of addiction is actually rooted in the brain’s inability to experience pleasure.

“There are variants in genes that turn down the function of dopamine signaling within the pleasure circuit,” explains Linden,  a professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the chief editor of the Journal of Neurophysiology.” For people who carry these gene variants, their muted dopamine systems lead to blunted pleasure circuits, which in turn affects their pleasure-seeking activities, he says. “In order to get to that same set point of pleasure that others would get to easily — maybe with two drinks at the bar and a laugh with friends — you need six drinks at the bar to get the same thing.”

It is important to realize that our pleasure circuits are the result of a combination of genetics, stress and life experience, beginning as early as the womb. Crucially, brain imaging studies show that giving to charity, paying taxes, and receiving information about future events all activate the same neural plea­sure circuit that’s engaged by heroin or orgasm or fatty foods.

via ‘The Compass Of Pleasure’: Why Some Things Feel So Good : NPR.

Born a Leftist October 28, 2010

Posted by tkcollier in health, Lifestyle, philosophy & politics.
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The research, based on 2,000 Americans, is published in the Journal of Politics. It found those with a strain of the DRD4 gene seek out “novelty” – such as people and lifestyles which are different to the ones they are used to. This leads them to have more liberal political opinions, it found.

The person’s age, ethnicity, gender or culture appeared to make no difference – it was the gene which counts. DRD4 is controlled by dopamine which affects the way the brain deals with emotions, pleasure and pain and can therefore influence personality traits.

UC Professor James Fowler said: “It is the crucial interaction of two factors – the genetic predisposition and the environmental condition of having many friends in adolescence – that is associated with being more liberal. “These findings suggest that political affiliation is not based solely on the kind of social environment people experience.”

via ‘Liberal gene’ discovered by scientists – Telegraph.

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