Epigenetics- Your Genes Are Changing & You May Have Some Control.

We’ve all been exposed to genetics in basic High School biology. Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) is the sacred LEGO block of

4×4 Punnett Square – a simple model for understanding probability of inheritance. Some punnett squares can be even more complex.

Nature. The DNA strain is a double helix made up of genes (groups of nuclei). Each gene carries with it a trait that is either expressed in an organism or is recessive. That’s it, that’s the most basic of High School Biology. Unfortunately that is what many people think – you have the gene because your parents had the gene and it is their fault for giving it to you and there is nothing you can do about it.

The study of genetics began with the study of heredity. The idea that the offspring exhibit traits similar to that of their parents has been known as a fact for a long time and for a long time genetics was that simple. Charles Darwin was probably one of the most noted forefather o

This Double Helix contains all the genetic information that makes you you

f the field of study. It was his observation that led him to his legendary idea of Evolution By Means of Natural Selection.  Charles Darwin did not have the knowledge or the technology to understand why – it wasn’t until 1865 – some 10 years later that Gregor Mendal  started conducting experiments on plants. It wasn’t until 1953 that the double helix model was created by Francis Crick & James Watson. At that time the genetic code was cracked. At the same time it was discovered that DNA duplicates – thus allowing cell growth. As a review because it should be well known by the reader – the genetic code is Adenine, Thymine  (AT) & Cytosine & Guanine ( CG) as base pairs, always in that pair. The arrangement of the base pairs creates a trait that is either recessive or dominant.

That is how basic biology has been taught. HOWEVER

it is much more complicated….

GENES don’t do just one thing. In fact – there are specific types – each active in certain cells of the body. You have genes specific for neurons, skin cells, red and white blood cells, etc etc. You also have regulatory genes – these genes control what genes get expressed and when. Regulatory genes are the on-off switches. You also have Master /PAX-6 genes which are responsible in the development of the embryo of an organism.

Albert Bandura was an American Psychologist who is most noted for his study with aggression

Child Beating On The Bobo doll After Watching An Adult – Lets Blame The Parents

in children. In his 1961 study, Bandura had children in his laboratory playing in a small room with double mirrored walls for observation. The key focus of the room was the bobo doll (a large inflatable punching bag in the shape of a clown, a classic children’s toy). The children paid no mind to the large toy, not until a research assistant entered the room and began to punch and kick the doll. After leaving the room the children began to mimic what they saw the adult do – punching, kicking and beating the crap out of the toy. Not surprisingly when the study was made public – the public lost their mind. It was confirmed in the eyes of the public that behavior and other traits are a result of the environment – a suspicion created and fueled by the Behaviorists at the time – Behaviorists like Pavolv & John B. Watson who militantly defended the notion that the environment alone makes us what we are rather than inheritance. The 1960’s was a time of the fear of the “refridgerator moms” – parent’s who didn’t provide enough emotional support to their children would end up having delinquent children no matter what.

Luckily – the study of epigenetics has taken the world of biological sciences by storm – specially the areas of neuropsychology, cancer research, HIV and Stem Cell studies. Epgenetics is the study of the relationship and interaction between genes and the environment. As it turns out – the outside environment has some degree of influence on how a trait is expressed (or if it gets expressed at all).

While Epigenetics has take

You Thought You Were Off The Hook. It’s common knowledge that smoking & drinking while pregnant can have severe consequences on the embryo of a child – stress while pregnant can be just as risky.

n much of the blame off of the parents – the mother is still not off the hook just yet – while genes are turning on and off from the environment as we go about our lifespan – prenatal stress from the mother can also play a hand. Prenatal stress can also play a hand in a child’s risk for Neurogenic Syndrome Disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the child’s sexual orientation or whether they will have behaviors stereotypical of male or female.

Epigenetics & You

Much like everything else – we have some control of our own destinies. We may not be able to help ourselves in determining when we will be born, who our parents will be or what area of the world we are born into but we are not the victims of birth. Just because your parents or grandparents had a trait doesn’t necessarily mean

“You Are Not Your Genes” – Dean Ornish (TED Talk)

you will obviously have the trait too (dominant exhibition of the trait). It simply means you are a carrier and at risk for that gene to be expressed. If cancer runs in the family – you might want to put on sunscreen, avoid alcohol and tobacco as much as you can. If diabetes or obesity runs in the family – you can help your situation by watching what you eat, exercising at least 3 days a week for 20-30 minutes. There are many steps one can take to help yourself. Your genes are the gun – how you set your environment up is your trigger..

Reference:

Association of Psychological Science (2012) Bandura & Bobo. www.psychologicalscience.org/publications/observer/obsonline/bandura-and-bobo.html#.WK-mKG_yt0w

Grezinko, N., Schmitz, R. (2012) Maternal Stress During Pregnancy: ADHD Symptomatology in Children & Genotype. J Can Acade Child & Adolescent Psychiatry http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3269259/

DNA From The Beginning Master genes control body plans www.dnaftb.org/37/

Bio Explorer History of Genetics www.bioexplorer.net/history_of_biology/genetics/

Ornish, D. You Are Not Your Genes. TED Talk

 

Play, Creativity & Genius – Part 1: Play

This is going to be a two part blog updated, I could make it into one but to help keep me focused I find it best to break it up intwo two. I’m going to discuss play and later creativity.
The gorilla, when it is not travelling or eating spends a good amount of it’s day playing. Organisms all across the animal kingdom play. The Dutch historian, Johan Huizinga (1872-1945) wrote a book entitled ” Homo Ludens”. In this book Huizinga argues that play has a big part in how we learn. As children we learn how to interact appropriately with others through play. The paradox of this of course is as we enter grade school play is slowly pushed away from us as we are told that we need to learn rather than play. It appears as we get older w play less but that is only an illusion. What are we doing when we engage in sports? when we try to negotiate? Hell when we engage in politics? It’s all play.
I’ve been accused more times than none of playing way too much. If I’m not tinkering with something in my hands I’m tinkering with a thought in my head, daydreaming none the less.
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Albert Einstein was a theoretical physicist who spent more time in his own head than he did in an actual physical lab running physical experiments. Einstein’s brain was his lab.
Einstein died in 1955. When he died the scientific and the academic world was ready to see what his brain was like. Einstein’s brain is currently at the National Museum of Health & Medicine in Maryland & a small portion at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. Upon the autopsy following Einstein’s death, his brain was dissected (and later digitized for public viewing) to examine where his genius came from. Examination of Einstein’s brain showed that his brain was different than the average. In Einstein’s brain, the region associated with the creation of abstract thoughts and the manipulation of symbols known as the angular gyri was larger than the average on both hemispheres by 15%. Everything else about his brain is what would be expected. The question remains and it is a chicken or the egg puzzle – was Einstein a genius because his angular gyri was larger than average OR is his angular gyri larger because he used it more?
By default the human brain isn’t habituated to thinking abstractly. Our brains prefer to play by the rules and stick to protocol because it is easier (remember our brains have limited capacity and doesn’t like to work harder than it has to). Thinking abstractly – out of the box comes from repetition, practice and habit.
In my early days as a magician, and as a mentalist this day when I receive a new gadget or principle my first instinct is to throw away the instructions and take it part – find a new novel way of using the item. Sometimes I get lucky and reinvent the wheel and sometimes I have to given in and stick to the protocol of it’s original purpose. That leads into my next topic, creativity and I will leave it at that until next month.
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Why Book Live Entertainment Part 1: The Reason For Live Entertainment Over TV/Movies/CDs/Video Games/etc

You should book live entertainers so that we can make a living. The end.

No, that is not why you should book us and that certainly shouldn’t be the focus of the entertainer either. Long before television and radio, people actually had to get out of the house and go pay to be entertained at their nearest theatre or concert hall / dime museum. This wasn’t like going to the movies, going to be entertained was a special event, people paid a good sum of money, they dressed their best and expected to stay the entire day or at least several hours because various performances would be showcased. Then there came the radio, then the motion picture followed by talking televisions. It was originally predicted that the first commercially available TVs would not sell because “no one wanted to sit in front of a box”. Today there is a television in every room in every house here in the United States and at least one TV in every house in Canada, UK, Japan & Australia (the US is more obsessed about TVs than their counterparts).

There is something that live performance has that television can’t provide – real human contact. One of the best things about going to see a show in a theatre is the intimacy between the performers and the audience. Television doesn’t offer that. Live entertainment also requires more use of imagination from the audience, the use of imagination overload is correlated with increase in creative thinking so there is a psychological benefit to live entertainment as well.

“But it’s so expensive to go to a theatre/concert!”. Yes, live entertainment is more expensive to produce, plus the performers don’t get the wide viewing benefit that cinemas offer. As you’ll see, the cost is nothing compared to the other benefits….

Live entertainment is much more flexible. Say you had a date scheduled but something came up and the event had to be postponed for a later date in the near future. Maybe that’s extreme – lets say you have a specific need that needs to be tailored to – any professional live entertainer be it a musician or a mentalist such as myself should have the capability to make adjustments. You can’t get that with television. Live entertainment once again provides that human factor that many answering machines and TV doesn’t offer.

“Why do you charge so much?” Here is the thing about paying for entertainment – you get what you pay for. That saying is more true here than anywhere else. Those that charge less are usually either not full time or they are starting out and lack the experience. Being a entertainer is a profession much like being a doctor or a lawyer, many of us have spent a lot of time, effort and money in improving what we do, studying what we do, getting the needed training/education. We make a living. Now, this may sound like greed but think about this for a second – take performer number 1 who charged $50.00, performer #2 who charges $150.00 and Performer #3 who charges $500.00. How do you perceive the $50 performer in comparison to the $150 versus the $500? Chances are you perceive prestige and respect for the $500 and you feel cautious about the $50. Your gut instinct knows that you get what you pay for. I have found in my own personal experience that charging more, while not always necessary will not only guarantee that I the performer will be able to rest for a while but that I will be treated better and my job will be made a lot easier. The reason for this is simple – we have respect and we take care of the things that we are most invested in.  Remember something you were given for free? How did you take care of that free thing versus the thing that you had to spend a lot of money on? Assuming that free thing isn’t something that is easily replaceable, chances are you treated the expensive object better than the cheap easily replaceable.

“But I’m Still Not Convinced”… People have been throwing events ever since the wheel was invented – especially the Ancient Greeks & Romans. Parties were thrown in celebration and as an attempt to impress friends. This tradition of throwing parties and subconsciously trying to impress people still resonates to the 21st Century. We spend days planning and investing as much money as possible to make it work. People are looking to have a good time, what better way than to include that human factor that comes with live entertainment?

This was a brief bit of persuasion and I will get into me specifically later on in another blog update.