Faces, genetics and addiction

BBC Radio 4’s science programme Material World just had an interesting edition on the links between face structure, psychological attributes and genetics, as well as a discussion on the science of addiction.

It is well known that certain genetic disorders that affect brain development can also lead to differences in facial structure (the most well-known example being Down Syndrome) owing to the fact that the brain and face develop from closely related groups of cells during embryogenesis.

One interesting example mentioned by medical geneticist Dian Donnai is the link between having a single incisor (‘front tooth) and possible problems with brain development.

It’s now being found that differences in the face, even in people without genetic disorders, reflect aspects of growth and development that can be linked to psychological attributes (or just as interestingly, are reliably linked to perceived psychological traits).

Psychologist Anthony Little is one of the guests on the programme and, with a number of colleagues, has done some fascinating work in this area (often using morphed or averaged faces like the one on the left) with many of the research articles available online.

The second part of the programme discusses the science of addiction in terms of both its psychology and neurobiology, but also in terms of its place in our culture as a concept that is applied to patterns of excessive behaviour.

Both are engaging discussions and are well-worth a listen.

Link to Material World with permanent audio archive.
realaudio of programme.

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