Your Children’s Legacy

This web site focuses on maintaining health and wellness.  That’s why I’m writing about an invisible lifelong family legacy that you can pass on to future generations by simply making an educational decision.

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Epigenetics is the chemical modification of genes and how the information in our genes is expressed and used by our cells – how cells read our genes.  The scientific journal Nature Neuroscience (June 2004) proved and reinforced this evidence.  A mother’s behavior can cause epigenetic changes in her child (DiscoverMagazine.com 5/2018).   What grandma and grandpa do and what parents do, influences their descendents.

Timing matters.  When the  brain of a 2 year old is influenced the affect is more long lasting  than when middle aged adults are targeted.  Neural communication, brain development and function reveal more methylation at a younger age. Researchers at Yale University published their study of Russian orphans documenting this finding(Szyf/Meaney). These altered traits on the affected genes can be transmitted to the next generation (Science, Jan., 25).  Epigenetic changes in certain regions of the brain underlie our intellectual intelligence – our ability to learn…(DiscoverMagazine.com5/2018).

Medscape (American Nurse Today 2017;12(10) relates that Epigenetic changes the DNA and interfers with transcription and alterations which affects how cells read and interpret genes that results in visible characteristics(phenotypes).  A collection of chemical tags, like methlation, can interfere with transcription to turn genes on or off and help fine-tune gene expression (protein production) in response to what’s happening in the environment.

The New York Times recent publication (July, 2018) reports on a new study by Nature Genetics.  This study finds that many of the genetic variations related to educational attainment are involved in how neurons communicate in the brain.  A striking number are involved in relaying signals out of neurons and into neighboring ones through connections called synapses.

Daniel J. Benjamin, a behavioral economist at the University of Southern California in association with UK Biobank in Britain and 23andMe began sharing information and found a number of genetic variations that are unusually common in people who finished a lot of school.  The variants are linked to genes active in the brain, helping neurons to form connections.  The key to educational attainment may not be how quickly information is acquired, but how quickly it can be shared between various regions.

Some variants linked to education work not in the brains of students, but in the people they inhertited the variants from – their parents (Epigenetics).

By somehow shaping the educational behavior of parents, these variants may alter the environments in which children grow up in a way that helps or impinges on time spent in school.

I was the first woman in my family to attend and graduate from college.  I didn’t have a person in my immediate or extended family to guide me through the process.  Attaining an associate, bachelor and master’s degree has made a difference in my financial and personal life. However, following this example, my siblings attended various educational institutions.  Since then my children and granddaughter have made the decision to either attend or graduate from college.

Is there educational behavior based on a gene profile?   Is there a genetic “score” for educational success?  Based on the methylated changes on a person’s genetic code, the answer would be – probably.  The longer your ancestors stayed in school the more probable you will too.

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