Saturday, July 11, 2009

Genes have lasting effects and more so those in the brain. More than what genes are inherited, how they are expressed really matters. A Nature study published late Feb 2009 pointed out that abused children have a higher suicide risk, well into their life later. Abuse in childhood is permanently said to alter genes in the brain, resulting in a heightened suicide risk.

This is because the brain, as Jonah Lehrer puts it, is a “complex object assembled from a basic four-letter code”. And to isolate every code in that nearly-4kg jellylike tissue is no mean task. Deeper probing into the brain at the cellular level puzzles many scientists. Neat divisions in the brain parts like the hippocampus fade away and more partitions are revealed. So is the case with the neocortex, the brain’s “CPU”. Scientists long assumed “cortical circuits to be almost the same.” But now each circuit is said to be driven by different genes---making the supercomputing metaphor invalid.

Actually, many were stunned when way back in 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue defeated the-then chess chap, Gary Kasparov. But few thought that the space and energy consumed by the supercomputer was massive compared to what it was facing: a greener brain, so to say, exhausting minimal energy and at its peak, consumes not more than 20W. That’s the brain we live and are changed by.

No comments: