Nature or nurture? For well over a century, the dominant understanding of inheritance was our traits are passed down to us through the DNA code from our parents. But a growing field of study reveals that social factors, environments, and even the experiences your mother faced before you were born all could have profound impacts on your genes.
Epigenetics is the study of changes to your genes that don’t change the underlying DNA. McGill University professor Dr. Moshe Szyf is a pioneering geneticist in this field. His groundbreaking experiments show that social factors, such as maternal care, do change the offspring’s ability to adapt to stress and handle anxiety. In other words, these genetic changes happen regardless of who the biological mother is.
Szyf likens DNA and epigenetics to a computer: Think of DNA as the hardware and epigenetics the apps. Using this analogy, he tells Full Frame, “The mother is actually writing codes in our DNA that tell us what kind of life we’re going to anticipate.”
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