Since the Ancient Greeks, and possibly even before, there has been an ongoing debate as to which effects are the most obvious in a human being. Some argue that nurture, the way each person is brought up, and the society they grow in, is the most determining aspect, whereas others believe that all the basic traits someone has stem from their heritage, or from nature. This debate has posed some fairly difficult and interesting questions over the years, and now researchers at the University of Texas (UT) in Dallas Center for Vital Longevity are seeking to bring in a new perspective, by conducting studies on twins, PhysOrg
The study group has yet to find all the twins they need for the investigation, and so they put out ads for pairs of identical and fraternal twins. They say that the studies will revolve around using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to gage the neurocognitive development in young adults from the perspective of genetic components. The research is being led by Center for Vital Longevity director Denise Park, who is working closely with the University of Michigan Arthur F. Thurnau professor of psychology, Dr Thad Polk.
What the research group is basically trying to do is create a list of associations between a wide variety of cognitive functions, and the neural activity patterns that trigger them. This is where fMRI steps in. The advanced imaging method is capable of determining which areas of the brain receive more blood flow when a stimuli is perceived (activation), and which regions experience a drop in supplies (suppression). The group will also gage the twins' response to various tasks, and then assess the differences between the influences that genetics (nature) and education (nurture) exert on the response behavior of each individual.
“The activity was more similar in identical twins when they were looking at pictures of faces and places than when they looked at pictures of chairs, for example. Recognizing faces and locations is vitally important to survival, whereas identifying chairs is not, so we may be more genetically wired for tasks that are closely connected to survival,” says Park. The team adds that, as soon as sufficient material is collected from this study, the researchers will move forward, to investigate older twins, to see if the correlations they determine here apply after individuals mature.