The latest edition of Scientific American Mind has just hit the shelves with a number of freely available online articles covering music and its emotional kick, the tyranny of perfectionism, the drama of developing child and the neural benefits of exercise.
One of the most interesting articles tackles a fascinating genetic effect called genomic imprinting where certain genes have different effects, depending on whether you inherited them from your mother or your father.
The classic examples are the Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes, both of which are genetic disorders linked to learning disabilities and neurological problems.
Both are caused by a partial deletion of genes from chromosome 15. When this is inherited from the mother, it causes Angelman syndrome, when inherited from the father, it causes Prader-Willi syndrome.
Recently, two Canadian researchers suggested that this process could also contribute to a whole range of mental difficulties and disorders, including relatively common ones like autism and psychosis which they cite as being differently affected by opposite and competing genetic influences from each parent.
The theory is perhaps a little fanciful, in that it seems to ignore cases of people with both conditions and doesn’t account for more recent evidence finding that forms of a genetic mutation known as a ‘copy number variation’ seems to increase the risk of both.
However, there is good evidence for the more general effect, where some genes can have a different psychological effect depending on where they originate, and the article discusses what we know about the science of this quirk of inheritance.
Link to July’s Scientific American Mind.