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PSYCH 211: Lecture 1 Notes

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University of Waterloo
Mathieu Le Corre

Nucleus: DNA’s home If human DNA gets damaged, it will affect kids and anything that DNA spreads too What genes do: code for proteins Genes don’t “cause” diseases; technically they code for proteins DNA acts from inside. Experience acts from outside. Can DNA interact with the environment? Genes are separate/not involved with how people are affected by parents, culture, and environment. Genes cause brain organization, disease, etc. Parents/culture/environment cause knowledge, personality, values, etc. OR Parents/Culture/Environment cause Gene Activity which causes brain organization, disease, knowledge, personality, values Genes are necessary for learning! When we learn, we store new info in memory The storage of memories depends on a “memory protein” (CaM Kinase II) Mutations in the gene that produces the memory protein prevent learning Ex. if you knock out that specific gene (from mice, for example), they will not be able to learn Genes and our environment interact constantly as learning happens! Rear rats in “enriched” environment or in impoverished environment: In enriched environment: -more dendritic spines (input part of neuron) on cortical neurons & more synapses per neuron -thicker cortex & more supportive tissues (ex. blood vessels) Effects of enriched environment involve gene expression -3 hours in enriched housing: expression of at least 60 different genes (ex. growth of synapses, reduce cell death) Therefore, gene and environment work together (not independent of each other). Genes build complicated structures by cooperating. Genes are like mini-orchestras -some genes are conductors, others are musicians -genes divide labour (have different and unique tasks) A “conductor gene”: Pax6, produces a protein that controls up to 2,500 “musician genes” during eye development -biologist Walter Gehring turned on gene that assembles Pax6 on antenna of fruit flies -extra eye grew on the flies’ antenna. -there are genes that regulate other genes to work together and develop/build something big. NOT TRUE: each gene has a single function IN FACT: the same gene can have various effects! (depending on where in the body/brain it’s activated) Effects of blocking “memory protein gene” depends on location of gene in the brain -in hippocampus: prevents maze-learning (special memory) -in amygdala: prevents learning to fear a tone that predicts a foot shock (emotional learning) The role of the gene depends on where it is in the body/what it’s surrounded by Questions & Evidence Do DNA and the environment interact? YES Are genetic developmental processes completely separate from learning & experience? NO. Evidence:
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