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Kayt Sukel: I think that the revolution in neuroscience is sort of happening in two fronts.  One, is the study of epigenetics, and the best way to think of the epigenome is that if the – our genomes, our DNA, is the hardware of a computer, our epigenome is the software.  So it’s actually sort of telling our DNA how it should be expressed, how much of a particular protein should be expressed and at what time during our life.  And the epigenome is heavily influenced by our environment and not just our environment, our parents’ environment and their parents’ environment.  Some of the software programs are so embedded that they make these changes that last for generations, others for just a small period of time. 

So, the revolution is really coming in understanding that there is no more nature vs. nurture debate.  Nature and nurture are intertwined; they’re really impossible to separate.  And as we look at our study of brain and behavior, we need to understand that there is no behavior, there is no biology, outside of the environment.

And then the second point, I think, in neuroscience, for a long time, we’d been gender blind.  So many studies, for many reasons, have only focused on males of the species or have not compared men and women, and they haven’t compared male and female brains.  And although it’s quite controversial--and for whatever reason, people want to take different to mean smarter or better--I don’t think that we can ignore anymore that male and female brains have certain circuits that are sexually dimorphic the same way that we have downstairs regions that are different.  We have some upstairs regions that are different as well.  And, moving forward in the study of neuroscience, we’re going to have to really pay attention to the fact that there are these differences, to understand what they mean for behavior.

Directed / Produced by

 Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

 

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