Nature vs. Nurture Theory (Genes vs. Environment) Center

In the nature vs. nurture debate, "nature" represents our genetic makeup. These are the genes you have inherited from your biological family, and that may affect your physical and mental health, for example, intelligence, disease, and psychological health. While "nurture" represents how our environment effects our intelligence, traits, personality, and mental and physical health. Studies have shown that a person's environment can alter his or her genes, and lower their risk of developing certain inherited diseases, conditions, and mental illnesses that run in his or her family.

Hippocrates studied and theorized how our biology affected our overall health and disease development. In 1869, Sir Francis Galton was credited for the term "Nature vs. Nurture Theory." Today it is widely recognized that both your genes and your environment effect both your physical and mental health.

Researchers and doctors have found that particular physical traits like eye and skin color, and diseases like Huntington's chorea are the result of genetic inheritance (inherited from a family member). However, patterns of thinking and behavior can be attributed to both nature and nurture (your genes and your environment). Moreover, researchers who study the brain have found overwhelming evidence that a person's genetic factors and his or her experiences guide and support brain development. The human brain produces new nerve cells (neurons) into adulthood, and these nerve cells can change the strength of their connections throughout life, which can effect intelligence and other factors. Research also has shown that sensory input (sights, smells, sounds, touch, etc.) has a critical in the role of brain development in the first few days of our lives, and probably throughout our life.

The controversy over how much our genes and environment effect our psychological and physical health still continues, however.


NCBI. Brain development and the nature versues nurture debate. Prog Brain Res. 2011;189:3-22. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53884-0.00015-4.

NCBI Resources. Institute of Medicine (US) Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2008.

Read more: Nature vs. Nurture Theory (Genes vs. Environment) Article


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