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DNA and the Brain

The role of DNA in brain functioning


Video - "DNA and the Brain" -

Dr. James Watson speaks at Google


James D. Watson, in 1953 discovered the structure of DNA. This was the key to uncovering the causes of brain disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, fragile X syndrome, Alzheimers, etc. is in our genes.

Since that time, scientists continue to search to find the genetic basis of
neurological disorders, seeking out disease genes related to each mental illness. This has since been dubbed as NDA fingerprinting.


Junk DNA

The full set of chromosomes that make up an organism is referred to as the genome. The genome includes both the genes and the non-coding sequences of the DNA. DNA code tells our cells how to build their molecular workforce - proteins. However, the vast majority of our DNA sequence is never translated into proteins.

Most of our genome is made up of ‘junk DNA’, which in spite of the name hold sequences vital in the evolution of human brains, by allowing our neurons to make better contacts with each other.

Sinces mans evolution from the chimp, the DNA maps have distinct differences, mostly relating to junk DNA and largely attributed to enviornmental elements.

The Human Genome Project was organized to map and to sequence the human genome. Recent genome sequencing efforts have distinguished DNA-level variation between different species, strains, and individuals.



Expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) mapping profiling data indicates that there is considerable variation in expression patterns between individual humans. In addition, since the brain is a very heterogeneous organ, expression profiles of the five different brain regions also vary significantly.

These differing maps are now treated as quantitative traits. Findings indicate that there is "a large number of brain region-specific genes, suggesting that many regulatory networks are highly brain region specific. Certain genes have extremely complicated expression patterns whose variation is dependent on both strain and brain region effects". For more about eTQL studies.

Next: Creativity and the Brain

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