Decoding human behaviour – Part 1 – Introduction

August 28, 2020 4:57 pm

From time immemorial mental illnesses were shrouded in mystery especially about where it originates from. It was believed that environment played a major role in its causation. But the mechanism remained elusive. Publication of a research paper by Michael Meaney and Moshe Szyf in ‘Nature Neurosciences’ in June 2004 turned out to be a landmark which helped understand the molecular mechanism of impact of environment on living things. Based on animal studies the authors concluded that maternal care or lack of it during infancy was critical how the babies handled stress later in life and that it was because of molecular modification of the stress hormone gene (Epigenetics). While our genetic code (DNA) determines who and what we are, it depends on the epigenetics, the elaborate chemical markings on the DNA acquired during the course of life, that controls the way genes function. Epigenetics is environment sensitive and is a crucial link between our genes and our surroundings. Nature – Nurture Interaction (gene – environment interaction) makes phenomenal contributions to our body, behaviour and determines how we are uniquely different from each other. By closely following the molecular underpinnings of this interaction, decoding the complexities involved in making of mental illness becomes easier.
The scientific world is waking up to the enormous impact that epigenetics has on human health. It is time we understand mental disorders in the real perspective so that stigma the curse of these illnesses becomes a forlorn conclusion.

– Dr. M Chandrasekharan Nair