Factors such as social media, artificial intelligence software, and our genetics influence our lives and choices beyond our awareness. Which leads us to ask: Do we really have free will?
In the article on The Conversation, a neuroscientist and science outreach fellow at the University of Cambridge provided an answer to this question.
Storage of genetic information
Every organism has its own unique genetic code that is inherited from parents. Genes consist of a sequence of 3.2 billion “nucleotides”, which are the letters that store and encode information about an organism.
The sequence of “nucleotides” reveals how ready or not our behavior is. These traits are written – to varying degrees – in our genes.
Sometimes thousands of genes work together in an exciting harmony. Research has shown that genes are not only responsible for height, weight, and eye color, but are also linked to mental health, longevity and intelligence.
For example, some of these genes determine how the brain functions. We can also learn how the electrical circuits inside the brains of babies work 20 weeks before birth.
One study concluded that there is a close relationship between the change that occurs in some electrical brain circuits on the one hand, and the genes responsible for Autism spectrum disorder and Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder on the other hand.
Nature and nurture are intertwined
Genes transmit our genetic history from one generation to the next. However, there are other ways in which traits can be passed down through the generations.
Some life experiences leave “markers” placed on genes, causing changes to the genetic code to appear. The study of these “epigenetic” changes that are inherited in subsequent generations has come under the name of “epigenetic” science, which can reveal the intertwining of the environment with genes.
In a 2014 study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists observed that mice inherited the epigenetic changes that occurred in their parents.
Mice like the smell of cherries, so when the mice smell this smell, they begin to move and search for food. Scientists have taken advantage of the mice’s love for this smell and tried to link it to a mild electric shock.
This caused the mice to freeze in fear as soon as they smelled the cherry in anticipation of an electric shock connection. The strange thing is that scientists have noticed the transmission of this new memory across generations. The descendants of these mice were afraid of the cherry smell, even though they were not subjected to any electric shock.
Given the modernity of this science, there are many questions that are concerned with knowing the effect of epigenetic changes on humans, but the preliminary results indicate the presence of epigenetic changes that have been inherited by the descendants of the generations that witnessed painful and cruel events.
One study showed that the death rate for children of American Civil War prisoners was 11% higher once they reached their mid-forties.
Do we have free will?
It is difficult to attribute it to the brain we were born with, the DNA we inherited from our parents, and the memories that were passed on to us from our ancestors. There is still room for change that comes with learning.
As we learn a new thing, new connections are formed between neurons, and the repetition of these processes strengthens these connections, and then they are integrated into memory. Consequently, the more this new memory is recalled, the new behavior acquired will become a familiar habit.
For example, we do not know how to ride a bike at birth. But with learning, we can do it. The same applies to other learning processes that create and strengthen neural connections.
Source : Australian Press + British Press