Episode 3: The DNA Trap

Click here for a transcript of this week’s podcast: The DNA Trap TranscriptNote: Conversational pieces of transcripts may deviate slightly from the spoken podcast, but all facts and science are preserved. 

This week’s episode, The DNA Trap, explores how much of our brain is built by our genes. In the episode, we focus on addiction and mental illness, and how these two conditions are influenced by our genetic code that we inherit from our parents. We learn what heritability estimates mean, what’s really happening in the brain of someone who is predisposed to alcoholism, and how much progress scientists have made in identifying the genetics of mental illness. Most importantly, we discuss what choices we can make as teenagers to live healthy lives, even if our brains are predisposed to illness and addiction.

Here are some pieces to read alongside this podcast.

  • This episode is a small part of the Nature vs. Nurture (or Genes vs. Environment) debate that has been raging in the scientific community for hundreds of years.  Here is a great article from PBS’ Nova that explores the genetic science of the debate, as well as the future of genetics research. Another article from the Wall Street journal takes a look at a fascinating gene called DRD4 that may determine how much our behavior depends on our environment- it’s a gene to know how much our genes affect us. Meta.
  • If you’re interested in learning more about twin studies and how they’ve helped shape genetics research, check out this article from Smithsonian Magazine. What do astronauts, intelligence, and homosexuality have in common? Twin studies.
  • If you struggle with a mental illness or addiction, please visit our Help Resources page under the “Extras” tab to find online resources for information about both conditions.


Here are the sources used in this episode:

Paper about History of Nature Vs. Nurture Debate

How Twin Studies Measure Heritability

Heredity Percentages and What They Mean

Genes and Addiction (Research Paper)

Heredity of Alcohol Dependence (Research Paper)

Alcohol Dependence in Rats at Indiana University (Research Paper)

Australian Diet and Mental Health Study (Research Paper)

Exercise and Mental Health Study (Research Abstract)

Early Intervention to Prevent Long-Term Mental Illness


Image: https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/DNA-Strand.jpg


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