Sociogenomics and the Dynamic Genome: A new perspective on nature and nurture
Gene E. Robinson will give the inaugural lecture in CEHD’s Biology and Behavior Forum, to be held at the University of Chicago on May 11. Robinson’s lecture, “Sociogenomics and the Dynamic Genome: A new perspective on nature and nurture,” will review what animals, particularly honey bees, have taught us about the dynamic interplay between genes and behavior.
Abstract: Studies in animals have revealed that the activity of genes in the brain is exquisitely sensitive to environmental influence, thanks to advances in animal genomics that enable real-time measurements of gene activity. However, social scientists studying humans still consider genes and behavior primarily from the singular perspective of heredity. Using the Sociogenomic Framework (Robinson, Grozinger, Whitfield, Nature Reviews Genetics, 2005), which integrates molecular biology, genomics, neuroscience, behavioral biology and evolutionary biology, this lecture will review what animals, particularly honey bees, have taught us about the dynamic interplay between genes and behavior. The honey bee is an excellent model for resolving the nature-nurture debate because of the remarkable behavioral repertoire expressed by members of its intricate society and the degree to which its behavior is influenced by both heredity and the environment. We now know that: 1) brain gene activity is closely linked with behavior; 2) changes in brain gene activity mediate changes in behavior; and 3) the relationship between behavior and some genes is highly conserved from animals to humans. These findings provide the basis for a new understanding of nature and nurture that emphasizes the action of genes across multiple timescales, from physiological to evolutionary, that is equally applicable to humans as well as bees.
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