Neural Control of Genetic Expression

headA new experimental study recently appeared (on 11 November) in Nature Communications on ways to use neural prosthetics to alter genetic expression. To download the full paper, published by a Swiss research group, go here:

Marc Folcher et al.,  Mind-controlled transgene expression by a wireless-powered optogenetic designer cell implant.

The fact that neural processes — and cultural programming viewed from a broader perspective — can turn genes on and off is not something we didn’t know before. In a sense, all work in cultural neurobiology (studies of brains linked in larger cultural networks) depends on it.

Last year a Norwegian group published a paper that you can download here, which we distributed to all our Teacher Training students, that for the first time linked yogic practices including meditation to rapid changes in gene expression in immune cells.

One of Avalon’s two Directors will be giving invited lectures on cultural neurobiology at Miami University of Ohio next week that in part discuss processes of this type.

The new paper is technical, but the implications of papers like this run deep. It is worth taking a look at least at the discussion section at the end, which covers some of those implications. A diagram from the paper summarizing how the prosthetics work is given below.

It wasn’t long ago that it was seriously taken for granted by many people that our fates are determined by our genes, part of the old (and now known to be misleading) “nature/nuture” controversy.

At the level of genetic expression, at least, we know that thoughts can affect genes just as much as the reverse is true: the influences in systems biology run from brains to genes (and everywhere in between) as well as the reverse.

Click below to see a clearer stand-alone image.