Genes do not Necessarily Determine Behavior

In this quote from Richie Davidson, we learn that genes do not necessarily determine behavior. They are like a switch that can be turned on and off, depending on causes and conditions in our lives.

DNA Strands

3d render of a DNA spirals

“These were the first hints that our emotional and psychological fate does not lie solely within the twists of the double helix. Depending on the experience a child has had, a genetic basis for shyness, or aggression, or delinquency might or might not manifest itself. Rather than thinking of DNA as the software running our cells—or the player-piano sheets that dictate what notes will be played—it is time to think of it as a music collection. Whether you store your music on an iPod or as a stack of CDs or (are there any of us left?) vinyl records, what music we hear depends on which music gets played. Just because we have it doesn’t mean the harmonies encoded in the bumps and valleys within the grooves of an LP will reach our ears. Now we know that just because we have a particular gene doesn’t mean that it’s music will be part of our lives. Or, if I may abandon the music analogy, think of it this way: Genes load the gun, but only the environment can pull the trigger.”

In short, the revolution in neuroplasticity has shown that the brain can change as a result of two distinct inputs. It can change as a result of the experiences we have in the world—how we move and behave and what sensory signals arrive in our cortex. The brain can also change in response to purely mental activity, ranging from meditation to cognitive-behavior therapy, with the result that the activity in specific circuits can increase or decrease.
-Richie Davidson from The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live–and How You Can Change Them

As you may know if you have been reading this site for a while, I have a lot of admiration for Richie Davidson and his work.

What habit pattern have you been blaming on your genes? How do you plan to change it?

Books by Richie Davidson

The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live–and How You Can Change Them

Richard J. Davidson

What is your emotional fingerprint?

Why are some people so quick to recover from setbacks? Why are some so attuned to others that they seem psychic? Why are some people always up and others always down? In his thirty-year quest to answer these questions, pioneering neuroscientist Richard J. … [Read More…]

Connect with Meditation Practices

Connect with

Or enter your name and email address below.