Are Brain Functions Mapped by Genetics or Environment?

Pierre Paul Broca

The Irish Medical Times recently published a very good overview of the different ways that science has looked at the localization of brain processing.

Spurred by Pierre Paul Broca’s discovery, in 1861, of a region of the brain critical to speech processing, scientists have theorized and debated whether our brains are organized according to our genetics, our environment, or both.

At first, DNA seemed to have the upper hand — brain mappings seemed to be consistent, to be present from infancy, and to be mirrored by similar localization in other species.

But the discovery of brain plasticity, and the ability of the brain to recover and rewire after injury, led some to surmise that in fact environment played a key role in determining which brain regions processed which information.

But brain plasticity, no matter how powerful and radical, has its limits; our brains are far from being entirely plastic. For the most part, different parts of the brain do seem to be genetically predisposed to perform certain functions and can only adapt within certain limits.

Interesting read…


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