Research in behavioral epigenetics is seeking evidence
that links experience to biochemistry to gene expression
and back out again.
In the late 1970s, when Hans Reul was a student running gels on the rich soup of proteins around DNA and RNA, he found himself wondering about the function of those nongenetic molecules in his samples. “I asked my supervisor, ‘What are those proteins down there?’ he recalls. “And he said, ‘Well, they’re histone molecules. We have no clue what they’re doing. They sit in the nucleus and do something with the DNA.”
At the time, for researchers chasing links between genes and behavior, all the tools and all the promise seemed to focus on two molecules, DNA and RNA. So did depictions in the popular media of the links between genes and personality. It was the era when Nobelist Walter Gilbert, extolling the Human Genome Project, would hold up a compact disc of data and tell his audience, “This is you.”
To view presentations from the recent Fall 2010 conference Behavioral Epigenetics, presented by The New York Academy of Sciences, The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and The University of Massachusetts Boston, please visit www.nyas.org/Behavioralepi-eB.