Showing posts from April, 2008

Genes, bad parenting keys to violence

From correspondents in London
April 10, 2008 04:00am WHETHER a criminal teenager turns into a violent adult or grows out of crime, may be related to how low his ears are set or the types of food he was given as a child. International research shows antisocial behaviour in young adults can be written into their genetic code, and made worse by bad parenting. Indicators that an antisocial child may turn into a life-long violent criminal can be picked up in kindergarten, according to research summarised in this week's New Scientist magazine. Of the 535 males and 502 females born in New Zealand in 1972 and 1973 who were signed up at birth to the University of Dunedin's Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, those who dabbled in crime as a teenager can be divided into two clear groups, Terrie Moffitt from the Institute of Psychiatry in London said.The more common type took up petty crime in adolescence keen to impress "badass" friends, she said. But the mo…

Negligent, attentive mouse mothers show biological differences

Photo: Jeff Miller

In mice, child neglect is a product of both nature and nurture, according to a new study. Writing in the journal PLoS ONE on April 9, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison describe a strain of mice that exhibit unusually high rates of maternal neglect, with approximately one out of every five females failing to care for her offspring.

By comparing the good mothers to their less attentive relatives, the group has found that negligent parenting seems to have both genetic and non-genetic influences, and may be linked to dysregulation of the brain signaling chemical dopamine.

As a possible model for human child neglect, these mice offer a valuable opportunity to investigate the biological and behavioral bases of naturally occurring maternal neglect, say UW-Madison zoology professor Stephen Gammie, who led the study, and co-author psychology professor Anthony Auger.

Good mouse mothers suckle, groom, and protect their pups, while their neglectful s…

Culture Can Change our Genes


Physician and social scientist, Harvard

I work in a borderland between social science and medicine, and I
therefore often find myself trying to reconcile conflicting facts and
perspectives about human biology and behavior. There are fellow
travelers at this border, of course, heading in both directions, or
just dawdling, but the border is both sparsely populated and
chaotic. The border is also, strangely, well patrolled, and it is
often quite hard to get authorities on both sides to coordinate
activities. Once in a while, however, I find that my passport (never
quite in order, according to officials) has acquired a new visa. For
me, this past year, I acquired the conviction that human evolution
may proceed much faster than I had thought, and that humans
themselves may be responsible.

In short, I have changed my mind about how people come literally to
embody the social world around them. I once thought that we
internalized cultural…