Sunday, May 6, 2012



          Epigenetics is the study of all modifications to genes other than actual changes in the DNA sequence itself. Although we can’t change genes that are already in our DNA, it is possible to control the switching on and off of these genes. This is what epigenetics strives to understand and achieve. Being able to accomplish these genetic alterations comes with great advantages such as the treatment of inherited diseases and cancer.
          What we know as “good genes” or “bad genes” is not as important as the actual activation of these genes. Genes are in charge of providing cells with instructions to make proteins. In the cell, DNA sequences are transcribed into RNA, which is then translated into the sequence of a protein. Epigenetic modifications, by turning genes on or off, allow or prevent the gene information from being transcribed into a protein.
          For example, in cancer, tumor-suppressor genes are mistakenly turned off, which prevents the growth-limiting protein from being made. Also, there are many growth-promoting genes for which a single dose is enough for normal cell proliferation. But if another copy of this growth-promoting gene is mistakenly turned on, uncontrolled cell growth can occur.
          Epigenetic changes can be caused by environmental factors such as diet, exercise and drugs. But what’s even more surprising is that these alterations can also be caused by exposure to other people in whom the genes are already active. This supports the idea that “You become more like whatever you are surrounded by.” It also explains familial traits, which are the characteristics shared within a family but that are not genetically inherited.

          Epigenetics alterations are not concrete. Instead, they are present throughout the lifetime of a person and are generally accumulated over time. For example, identical twins, although they have the same DNA, may have different epigenetic material due to difference in their environments.

          Epigenetics also explains brain plasticity, not only in the neurons themselves, but also in the genes that enable or disable their function. Certain environmental cues are necessary for turning on certain genes in charge of network development. However, if these cues aren’t present, these genes may not be activated. Also, wrong environmental cues can cause dysfunction. Environment plays a huge role in manipulating the structure and function of neurons. This proves that intelligence enhancement is possible and epigenetics shows how this alteration works. Epigenetics will also all
ow us to determine the factors that affect intelligence growth and decline.


          Epigenetics shows how nature and nurture interact. Although most of our characteristics are genetically predisposed, our environment determines to what extent we will be affected by them. This applies to the genes responsible for intelligence. We could have them or not, but that wouldn’t be as important as knowing how to activate and use them to their full potential. In a previous source, it was mentioned that every human is born being a genius, but not all of us take advantage of that privilege. If certain environment cues are not present or if we are influenced by the wrong ones, our level of intelligence could be altered. What we eat, how often we exercise, and whether or not we take certain drugs are all factors that could affect our intellectual power. Even the people we spend a lot of time with could influence the development of some genes that may or may not be responsible for intelligence. Although there is still not a specific way to control the activation of these genes, thanks to epigenetics we are closer and closer to finding this answer.

  • Is it possible that spending time with people with higher intelligence levels affect our own intellectual power?
  • If scientists developed a drug that could activate these "intelligence" genes, what could be the advantages and disadvantages?

Plasticity & epigenetics: The basics. (2009, April 29). Retrieved from


1 comment:

  1. I think it is very possible. As a very popular saying states, "Birds of a feather flock together." Which states that people of certain similar ideas and attitudes tend to spend the most time together. People are always trying to fit in so it is very possible that if your friends are intelligent you will most likely try to do the same. The advantages of taking such pills is that higher order of thinking will be established among individuals, however you never know if people will use it for good or bad and this could cause a tremendous power struggle.