It’s All in the Genes
Nature vs. Nurture in the brain
Nowhere is the age-old argument about whether we’re “born with it” or we “develop it” by living as important as in the burgeoning industry of genetics. The industry’s position is that there is “overwhelming evidence for the existence of substantial genetic influences on individual differences in general and specific cognitive abilities”. However, research seeking to identify and find those genes continues to go very slowly despite decades of research and funding.
In the search for a gene for addiction—which would produce a huge market—the findings so far are that “susceptibility” appears to be the result of an interaction between many genes. Studies of identical twins separated at birth for genetic predisposition to depression have seemed to show a genetic link—if we leave out the experiential effect on newborns of being separated so early in life from someone so important. We already know the devastating traumatic effects of removing infants from their mothers in the early days and weeks of life; how much more the effect might be expected to be in literally removing “a part of me” from me shortly after the shared birth experience.
Can Your DNA Change
Many of us assume that an unchangeable genetic blueprint is preprogrammed into us, but that’s actually far from true. The evidence is that your DNA is changing with some regularity throughout life—from prenatal changes in the womb to death. What is this powerful factor that can actually change our genetic expression? Experience.
In fact, epigenetics is the study of how changes in the functioning of a gene can occur without changing the DNA sequence. These changes can result spontaneously, in response to environmental factors, and they can be passed on to our offspring.
These effects don’t necessarily mean that DNA has changed, but there is a process called “methylation” by which experience can affect how—and whether—genetic codes are expressed in an individual. It can actually “turn off” the expression of a genetic tendency.
Animal studies show that a nurturing mother—beyond producing offspring likely to be good parents—also produces long-term brain changes in herself and in her children. Genes in the hippocampus that activate in response to stress are quieted by good mothering. What’s more, this change appears to be passed genetically to future generations until the cycle of nurturing fails.
The Brain is not a Pancreas
The human brain is under constant development from its earliest intra-uterine formation throughout our lives in response to what it experiences. Evidence that this development can change genetic expression is clear. Thus we can change internal experience of our inner and outer worlds by changing brain patterns, and we can actually pass along that experience through the resulting adjustments that occur in genetic expression.
Not only are other organs much less complex and interactive than the brain, none of them change to the degree the brain does during its development. Pancreatic function, for example, can certainly be affected by how we live our lives, but what the pancreas does and how it does it are not likely to change.
The importance of brain training
So the final point of this part of our discussion is:
Our energy brains develop stable activation patterns in response to what we experience in our lives, beginning literally in the womb.
These patterns not only affect how we feel about ourselves, but they literally create our experienced universe. A fearful brain sees a frightening universe. We find what we look for.
Our experience can change how genetic codes that supposedly control our lives unfold. They can also change what we pass along to future generations.
Changes in our energy brains are capable of producing lasting changes in our chemical brain, though changes in chemistry do not necessarily produce lasting energy changes.
Training for changes in stable energy patterns in our brains have the capacity to change how we feel about ourselves, how we experience the universe around us, the chemistry of our brain, brain metabolism and the kind of brain we pass on to those who follow us.
Our final topic in this section well be a quick look at how brain training could actually happen—how it IS happening all over the world today.