Nature vs. Nurture, Or Simply Where You Live?
Scientists recently set out to determine which had a greater role in the way we turn out as people, nature or nurture. To their surprise, they found that it may depend on where you live.
The study, led by researchers from King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry, looked at 6,700 pairs of twins when they turned 12.
"These days we're used to the idea that it's not a question of nature or nurture; everything, including our behavior, is a little of both," explains Dr. Oliver Davis, a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow at King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry. "But when we saw the maps, the first thing that struck us was how much the balance of genes and environments can vary from region to region."
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"Take a trait like classroom behavior problems. From our maps we can tell that in most of the UK around 60 percent of the difference between people is explained by genes. However, in the South East genes aren't as important: they explain less than half of the variation. For classroom behavior, London is an 'environmental hotspot'."
Using these hotspots, the scientists hope to then identify what could be creating social maladies. For instance, income levels vary in London more than anywhere else, and might be something underlying classroom behavior.
"Of course, this is just one example. There are any number of environments that vary geographically in the UK, from social environments like healthcare or education provision to physical environments like altitude, the weather or pollution. Our approach is all about tracking down those environments that you wouldn't necessarily think of at first," says Dr. Davis.
The scientists believe that the genetic hotspots have more to do with whether the environment the people live in will expose them. Those not exposed to pollen do not develop hay fever, whereas those exposed to it will exhibit those genetic signs.
"The message that these maps really drive home is that your genes aren't your destiny. There are plenty of things that can affect how your particular human genome expresses itself, and one of those things is where you grow up," says Dr Davis.