Understanding how genetics influences behavior could motivate people to change

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This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Genetic influence on human characteristics is often misinterpreted. It is wrongly assumed that a behavior that has strong genetic influence…must be biologically hardwired. However, genes are not destiny. Genes are often dependent on environmental exposure….

For example, people with a genetic predisposition to lung cancer are unlikely to develop the disease unless they smoke. The same is true of behavior. Behavior is only elicited in response to environmental cues. Establishing that a behavior has an important genetic basis does not imply that this behavior cannot be changed through environmental means.

Studies following twins over many years have shown that the importance of genes can change dramatically with development. Genetic influence tends to increase with age for many characteristics – for example, body weight and intelligence. It is thought that with increasing maturity comes the ability to make independent choices in line with our genetic predispositions…On a broader level, twin studies are also the first step towards molecular genetic research identifying specific genes involved.

Undeniably there are concerns that promoting the knowledge that healthy behaviour is partially down to genes may somehow stop people from taking responsibility for managing their own, or their child’s behaviour. However, studies exploring individual feedback on DNA-based disease risk suggest that knowing your genetic predisposition does not necessarily undermine attempts to improve health, but may increase engagement and motivation to change behaviour.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original postWhy it is useful to understand the role of genetics in behaviour

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