Understanding the Brain


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Neurogenetics studies the role of genetics in the development and function of the nervous system. It considers neural characteristics as phenotypes (i.e. manifestations, measurable or not, of the genetic make-up of an individual), and is mainly based on the observation that the nervous systems of individuals, even of those belonging to the same species, may not be identical. This therefore leads to the assumption that multiple aspects of neural functioning -such as motor and other behaviors, personality, mental abilities and so on- will vary according to such genetic make up. From a medical viewpoint, this field deals mostly with those disorders in which a predominantly neurological involvement has been found, and a clear genetic basis has been established, whether inherited or not. The most common examples of neurogenetic disorders include certain forms of epilepsy, mental illness, movement disorders, mental retardation, muscular dystrophies and/or peripheral neuropathies in which a clear genetics basis has been established. This rapidly expanding area involves studying the plausible role of such genetic disturbances in common behavioral conditions such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, depression, etc.

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