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. PubMed.gov. 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.
Multimedia: Slideshows, Images & Quizzes
Breast Cancer Quiz: Symptoms & Signs
This Breast Cancer Quiz features signs, symptoms, facts, causes, common forms, terms, risk factors, statistics, and more. ...
Ovarian Cancer Quiz: Test Your Medical IQ
How common is ovarian cancer and who is at risk? Take our Ovarian Cancer Quiz to learn the causes, symptoms, and treatment for...
Melanoma (Skin Cancer) Quiz: Symptoms & Signs
What causes skin cancer? Take our Skin Cancer Quiz to learn about the risks, symptoms, causes, and treatments for this common...
Top 10 Cancers Quiz
Take this quiz to learn the causes of cancer. Get the facts about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for the world's most...
Lung Cancer Quiz: Signs and Symptoms
Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the U.S. and worldwide. Get the facts about lung...
Gastric Cancer Quiz
What are the main risk factors for gastric cancer? Where does gastric cancer occur? Take this quiz to learn about this different...
Head and Neck Cancer Quiz
Learn the facts about head and neck cancers....
Skin Cancer Symptoms, Types, Images
Discover the causes, types, and treatments of skin cancer. Learn how to prevent skin cancer and how to check for melanoma, basal...
Cancer-Fighting Foods in Pictures: Resveratrol, Green Tea, and More
Experts have praised certain foods for their ability to reduce cancer risks. Learn which foods and eating strategies may help...
Signs of Cancer in Men: Could it Be Cancer?
See pictures of which 15 cancer symptoms men ignore such as skin changes, difficulty swallowing, rapid weight loss, a breast...
Signs of Cancer in Women: Symptoms You Can't Ignore
Cancer symptoms can surprise women if they don't know what to watch out for. 15 cancer symptoms women ignore such as weight loss,...
Lung Cancer Risks: Myths and Facts
Learn about lung cancer myths and facts. Explore how cigar smoke, menthol, and pollution can increase your risk of lung cancer...
Related Disease Conditions
Cancer Risk Factors
Though it's difficult to say why some people develop cancer while others don't, research shows that certain risk factors increase...
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer which begins in skin cells called melanocytes and affects more than 53,600 people in the United...
Skin cancers occur when skin cells undergo malignant transformations and grow into tumors. The most common types of skin cancer,...
Breast Cancer Prevention
Lifestyle changes, a healthy antioxidant-rich diet, exercise, and weight reduction can help reduce a woman's risk of developing...
Cancer is a disease caused by an abnormal growth of cells, also called malignancy. It is a group of 100 different diseases, and...
Colon Cancer Prevention
Colo-rectal cancer is both curable and preventable if it is detected early and completely removed before the cancerous cells...
Certain behavioral, lifestyle, and environmental factors contribute to cancer. Cancer prevention involves modifying these factors...
Genetic Disease (List, Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Prognosis)
The definition of a genetic disease is a disorder or condition caused by abnormalities in a person's genome. Some types of...
Endometrial Cancer Prevention
Endometrial cancer, or uterine cancer, affects the endometrium of the uterus. It's the most common invasive cancer of the female...
Estimating Breast Cancer Risk: Questions and Answers
As breast cancer is the most diagnosed non-skin cancer in American women, it is important to know your breast cancer risk. Risk...
Your health care provider may refer you to a genetic professional. Universities and medical centers also often have affiliated...
Genetic Testing: Families With Breast Cancer
Breast cancer can be a killer and the decision to get tested to see if a patient is prone to the disease should be discussed with...