Scientific Looking, Looking At Science

Imaging Genetics

Genetics is the study of heredity and the variation of inherited characteristics. Many people around the world have their genetics tested to determine their various ethnic origins. To do this, people must obtain samples of their DNA through skin, blood, hair, or tissue cells and send them over to a genetic laboratory. Years ago, it was more difficult to obtain genetic information due to the fact that science was not as advanced as they are today. “As research in developmental and clinical sciences has progressed in the last decades, there have been many important technological and methodological advances in the increasingly complimentary fields of molecular genetics and neuroimaging” (Muñoz, Hyde, Hariri 2009). Our DNA is one of the major components that play into the process of determining genetic material. Today, it can take just days to obtain the information needed when doing genetic testing; whereas previous used procedures in the past would take weeks, if not months to successfully receive results. A relatively new way to view genetic sequencing is by using technology to view it as an image. “Imaging genetic studies have the potential to provide a more complex and nuanced understanding of the pathways and mechanisms through which the dynamic interplay of genes, brain, and environment shapes variability in behavior” (Muñoz). 
    A gene is a hereditary sequence of nucleotides that are transferred from a parent to offspring and is held to determine some characteristic of the offspring. In biology, this term is frequently used when learning about the process of fertilization in humans, plants, and all other organisms. Your genes can determine your skin color, hair color, ear shape, hair line, and many other traits. These traits can come from either your mother’s family or your father’s family, and the phenotype can be compared to either parent by facial and body features. Your genes can also determine your overall health as well as your behavior. Children with parents that have had past behavioral issues as a child can expect to be more than likely troubled. Although parenting choices can have an impact on this factor; genetic components can alter the brain when it comes to behavioral situations. “Genes, which are a function of natural selection and stochastic variation, influence the physical architecture of the brain, which houses the “mind”” (Weber, Johnson, Arceneaux 1319). 
    As well as behavior, addictions can be affected by the fluctuations of the brain’s chemicals. Alcoholism, substance abuse, and tobacco overuse are just some of the many types of addictions that have taken over the lives of 8% of Americans. Many people view addictions as a negative excuse to wrongly use medical or recreational matter. “The notion that genetic explanations could help to temper the kinds of negative attitudes toward addiction that are widespread among members of the public is consistent with the tenets of attribution theory, which states that anger, blame and punishment intentions are reduced when a person’s stigmatized characteristics are attributed to factors that the individual did not cause” (Lebowitz, Appelbaum 717-718). It has been proven that individuals who have a family history of substance abuse or addiction have a higher risk of becoming an addict; if they aren’t already. Although medication can be prescribed to lessen the side effects of addiction cravings, addicts will usually be seen by psychiatrists and therapists to help mentally subside these individuals from wanting to go back to their addictive ways.
    Lebowitz and Appelbaum’s experiment involved participants who read a story about a person who had either a gambling or drinking addiction. Each individual would either have the addiction be linked to a nongenetic or genetic factor; which means the character was either inheriting this addiction through genetic components or through his own habits. The purpose of this experiment was to then rate the severity of blame the character deserved and how much psycho-medical assistance they would offer him. The results showed that people blamed the man less for his addictions if they were linked to a genetic factor. The participants who were told that his addictions were nongenetically imposed showed less sympathy for this person and rated that he would need more psychotherapy than the genetically imposed counterpart. “Participants considered the question of whether Charlie has control over his addiction in a broader sense, whereas the other two agency measures focused more narrowly on Charlie’s ability to recover from his addiction” (721).
    Overall, genetics is a central concept in the science department. There are many ways that genetics can be linked to various addictions, diseases, and behaviors. Over the years, science has evolved in a way that allows scientists to better understand human genetics and how they can vary for every individual. As we evolve through technological advances, there might even be further explanations in genetics that can allow us to better assist the human body’s actions, attributes, and personalities; as well as modify the world as we know it. “Future scholarship should be devoted to disentangling these issues, clearly articulating the complex relationships between personality, motivation, affect, and cognition with respect to the genetic basis of social behavior” (Weber 1334).

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