June 13, 2012

Environment Plays Significant Role In Development Of Traits

As we grow up, traits such as height, weight and IQ are strongly influenced by the environment we live in, according to a new study that pits nature (genes) against nurture (environment).

But the researchers, from King´s College London, said the strength of environmental factors, compared with influence of DNA, differs greatly across the country.

To determine whether nature or nurture played a bigger role, Dr. Oliver Davis and colleagues studied 45 childhood characteristics in 6,759 pairs of non-identical twins across the United Kingdom.

What they discovered was a good mix of each. A series of “nature-nurture” maps revealed that in some regions traits were affected more by the environment and in other areas the same attribute was governed by genetics.

The study, funded by the WellCome Trust and published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, showed that, in one example, 60 percent of the variation in children´s school behavior across much of the country was influenced by genes. However, the environment in London played a greater role for the same trait.

This could be the result of different groups within the community influencing each child in different ways, researchers believe.

“There are any number of environments that vary geographically in the UK, from social environments like health care or education provision to physical environments like altitude, the weather or pollution,” said Davis.

“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,” he explained.