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Articles:
Article 1: http://www.apa.org/monitor/sep02/genes.aspx! Article 2: http://www.dnales.org/programs/dna-behavior! Article 3: http://www.mindingthemind.com/doc/personality.pdf Question: How does our genetic code inuence our physical or behavioral traits?

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Finding any real "personality" genes is decades away. But researchers have a good start.! In fact, more researchers are jumping into the complex fray of behavioral genetics each year, fueled by the hope that identifying genes related to personality traits will not only help them better understand what makes people tick but also what goes wrong when normal "ticking" turns pathological.! The goal is to discover genes that a"ect brain functions that in turn a"ect how people interact with their environments. The research is slowed by the complexity of the search: Many genes are responsible for various aspects of people's temperament, and those genes appear to interact with each other in complicated ways that inuence several traits at once--and then likely only in very subtle ways, with any one gene likely accounting for only 1 or 2 percent of the variance in a trait.! Researchers do, however, believe that their work will eventually pay o" and they'll have a new, more comprehensive, understanding of personality and psychopathology as well as the complex play between genes and environment in shaping personality.! Progress to date! Scientists have a strong foundation for their search for personality genes from the years of basic psychology and neuroscience studies that have explored just exactly what personality is and how personality-related behaviors might be inuenced by specic neural mechanisms. And although researchers still debate exactly how to dene personality, they have identied certain core personality dimensions that are consistent across cultures, including novelty-seeking, neuroticism and agreeableness.! Intriguing to people has been research in animals and humans that links certain neurotransmitters with some of these dimensions or traits. For example, many studies have found a connection between high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine and behaviors related to novelty-seeking. That gives researchers a place to start looking--genes related to dopamine--among the nearly 50,000 in the human genome.! To date, there are only two real candidate genes that anyone speaks of with any condence. The rst potential link is between some behaviors related to the Big-Five trait novelty-seeking and a gene that produces the protein responsible for creating a dopamine receptor called DRD4. While some studies have failed to replicate this connection, others have identied a link between the DRD4 gene and other traits linked to noveltyseeking, such as drug abuse and attention-decit hyperactivity disorder. The indication is that this gene--or perhaps some other gene related to it--may inuence all these interrelated characteristics.! The second candidate--linked to the Big Five trait neuroticism--is commonly called the "Prozac" gene because it produces a protein related to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Also known as the serotonin transporter gene or 5-HTTLPR, it has the strongest evidence linking it to neuroticism and other anxiety-related traits, such as harm avoidance.! Even so, the gene appears to account for only about 1 to 2 percent of the variance for these traits, says National Cancer Institute molecular biologist Dean Hamer, PhD, one of the rst scientists to search for personality genes. "If that's as good as it gets," he says, "everything else is likely worse." That means perhaps hundreds of genes inuence each of our personality traits ever so slightly.! In fact, the work is so di#cult from a molecular biology point of view, Hamer is all but abandoning it.! "After 10 years or so, it's quite clear to me that at least for most traits there are a very large number of genes involved," he says. The only area he'll continue working on is sexual orientation. There he feels there's a better chance of nding just a few key genes.! Blurring lines between 'normal' and pathological! The di#culty of the work isn't stopping others who anticipate the promise of a greater understanding of personality as well as psychopathology. Already, research has begun to blur the traditional line delineating personality and psychopathology as separate entities.! For example, over the past decade, studies have established a connection between high scores on the standard personality trait of neuroticism and major depression. In fact, high neuroticism scores can predict whether someone will develop major depression, says Kenneth Kendler, MD, director of the Psychiatric Genetics Research Program at Virginia Commonwealth University, who conducted some of the research showing this link. Other studies by Kendler suggest that neuroticism and depression share as much as 60 percent of their genes. In fact, most researchers in this area expect they'll nd that many of the genes that inuence general personality also play a role in many forms of psychopathology.! Such ndings would suggest that conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders and attention-decit hyperactivity disorder are one end of a continuum that includes normal personality traits.! "Once we get genes for psychopathology, we'll get genes for personality" and vice versa, says Robert Plomin, PhD, deputy director of the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre in the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College, London. "At least for more common disorders, such as hyperactivity, all the evidence points to a continuum of traits. Activity and hyperactivity are just variants of each other."! Understanding environment through genes! The research could also revolutionize how psychologists dene psychopathology, which is currently diagnosed by symptoms, says Plomin.! "All our concern about diagnosis based on symptoms might be o" base," he says. Instead, psychopathology could be dened and diagnosed based on genes and their interaction with the environment to produce certain outcomes. This would allow clinicians to detect people at risk for a certain disorder and, perhaps, prevent symptoms from ever occurring by modifying a person's environment.! Of course, the reality of using genetic markers to diagnose psychiatric disorders--not to mention to assess personality traits--is likely decades away. In fact, some researchers think it's unlikely because of the number of genes involved in any one trait.! "One can fantasize about replacing self-report inventories with genetic assays to assess personality traits," says psychologist Je" McCrae, PhD, a personality psychologist at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), "but I doubt it will ever become a reality. The link between genes and traits is too imperfect, and we would need to discover all the genes associated with each trait and how they interact in order to come up with a gene-based personality assessment." More likely--and equally important for personality researchers--is the idea that they will be able to include genetic markers among the criteria they use to validate their personality measures.! "[Genetic markers] could provide one more objective indicator against which to evaluate our instruments," says McCrae.! In addition, nding genes is sure to help researchers better understand how environment and genes interact to shape personality. That's the idea behind research by McCrae and his long-time NIA collaborator Paul Costa, PhD. They have developed the Five-Factor Theory, which says that personality traits themselves are genetically based, but that characteristic adaptations--habits, beliefs, values, self-concepts, roles, relationships, skills--are shaped jointly by genetically determined traits and the environment.! Once they and other researchers pin down at least some of the genetics of the traits, they could much more easily evaluate the environmental contribution to these characteristic adaptations.! "For example," says McCrae, "we might nd that people high in Gene A everywhere in the world cried when they were depressed, but that they only attempted suicide in certain cultures."! That might, he says, suggest that the environment has little to do with the physiological expression of a"ect, but is crucial for understanding and preventing suicide.! Though concrete answers are far o", "Understanding the genes and their interactions will most certainly also help us understand environmental inuences," says University of Illinois personality and social psychologist Ed Diener, PhD. "We will be able to see when the environment 'overrides' the genes and why. And we will be able to see how environmental variations interact with genetic variations."

What do attached ear lobes, blue eyes, and tongue-rolling have in common? They are traits determined by your genes. But many researchers also believe that genes inuence alcoholism, homosexuality, and a predisposition for anxiety. In DNA and Behavior: Is Our Fate In Our Genes?, The DNA Files looked at DNA and its possible inuence on our behavior.! ! Research on psychology and behavior is increasingly incorporating genomic studies. In July 2007, Oxford University researchers announced the discovery of a gene that appears to increase the odds of being left-handed. In right-handed people, the left side of the brain usually controls speech and language, and the right side controls emotions. In left-handed people, the opposite is often true, and researchers believe the LRRTM1 gene is responsible for this ip. While knowing you have a predisposition to being left-handed might be interesting, it pales in importance to knowing you have a predisposition to a disabling psychiatric disorder. As of 2007, the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) database lists 2,147 observable traits with a known molecular basis, including Down syndrome, schizophrenia, and many forms of panic disorders. Ongoing research at UCSF aims to identify and understand the genetic basis of panic and anxiety-related disorders by using dogs as a model. Many breeds of dog exhibit the panic and anxiety behaviors that humans do, including noise phobia and obsessivecompulsive disorders. According to UCSF geneticist and psychiatrist Steven Hamilton, "If we nd a gene or set of genes that are associated with panic-like disorders in the dog, we can go back and look more closely in our samples from human families at the human forms of those genes."! ! In 2005, National Institutes of Health researcher Dean Hamer identied three chromosomal regions that he said linked to sexual orientation. This nding, along with his earlier claims of a "gay gene," was very controversial among scientists. So far, no other studies have replicated his ndings. Hamer also recently pointed to the existence of a "God gene" for religious experience in his book The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes. Hamer suggests that human spirituality is an inherited trait, and he says he has located one of the genes responsible. This gene codes for various neurotransmitters that inuence our moods. Although he is now focusing on new therapeutics for HIV/AIDS, Hamer continues to research the genetic basis of homosexuality.! ! While the idea that researchers can nd a single gene for a specic behavioral trait makes for an exciting news story or a sensational movie, it simply isn't true. Human traits, especially involving behavior, are likely to have a complex genetic basis incorporating many genetic and environmental inuences.! ! Original Program Description, 1998! ! What if you had a tendency to over-indulge in alcohol from time to time? And what if you found out that you had a genetic predisposition for addictive behavior? Would this knowledge inspire you to curb your drinking? Or would you feel resigned to your "fate" and drink all the more as a result? It's a question worth pondering as scientists further study possible genetic inuences on behavior.! ! This program describes key studies that attempt to explain specic behaviors. For example, you'll learn about twin studies conducted to determine whether there is a genetic inuence on homosexuality. Some scientists hope that establishing a genetic basis for homosexuality will help foster greater acceptance of homosexuals. Opponents of the research fear that instead, there may be renewed e"orts to "cure" them. You'll hear rst-hand views from scientists and subjects of the study, and then you can draw your own conclusions.! ! You'll also nd out about a less-publicized but much-studied behavior: novelty seeking. What drives some people continually to seek out new experiences - sometimes with dangerous consequences? And how do scientists dene such behaviors cross-culturally? What constitutes novelty seeking in Manhattan? In Papua New Guinea?! ! In addition, the program examines genetic research conducted on mice that aims to shed new light on addictive personalities. Tour one "mouse behavior" lab and learn about the latest ndings on alcoholic traits. What does it mean to have a "predisposition" for an addictive behavior? If there is a genetic basis for alcoholism, how would this a"ect the way alcoholism is treated?! ! By exploring these three behaviors homosexuality, novelty seeking, and addiction - we examine how the eld of behavioral genetics may a"ect each of us individually and impact society as a whole.