March 2013 Archives

Cis Regulation of Creative Dance Performance

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Recently an assignment for class had us read Gregory Wray's paper on the evolutionary significance of cis-regulatory elements. In this paper Wray cites another paper that makes the somewhat dubious claim that creative dance performance in humans is regulated by a cis-element mutation. Struck by the oddity of this claim I tracked down the original paper by Bachner-Melman et. al. to determine the validity of this statement. The paper begins by citing similar research into the effects of genetics on athletic ability and musical aptitude as examples of research into what they believe to be major elements of creative dance. They also compare dance to other behavioral phenotypes shown to have some level of genetic inheritance such as schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder. Bachner-Melman et. al. then identify two genes, AVPR1a and SLC6A4, that they believe have an effect on creative dance performance. After stating their case for why their research is valid Bachner-Melman et. al. move on the the results of their research, which is where things get a little sketchy. The researchers claim that significant differences in allele frequencies of the two genes in question exist between dancers and non-dancers, I was unable to determine where in their results this was determined. This may not be significant as I may simply lack the ability to understand their results, but it personally makes me question their conclusions. This illustrates the importance of looking into dubious claims and remaining skeptical when reading about scientific discoveries.

Wray, G. A. 2007. The Evolutionary Significance of Cis-Regulatory Mutations. Nature Rev. Gen. 8: 206-216

Bachner-Melman, R., Dina, C., Zohar, A. H., Constantini, N., Lerer, E., Hoch, S., Sella, S., Nemanov, L., Gritsenko, I., Lichtenberg, P., Granot, R., Ebstein, R. P. 2005. AVPR1a and SLC6A4 Gene Polymorphisms Are Associated with Creative Dance Performance. PLoS Gen. 1(3): e42.

Effects of BPA on Neurodevelopment

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After reading this excellent blog post on the effects that Bisphenol-A (BPA) can have on neurological development i became interested in finding what problems exposure to this chemical can cause and how it is regulated by the FDA. A panel conducted by the National Institutes of Health in 2007 determined that there is some concern for the effects of BPA on the neural development for fetuses and young children but decided that BPA is of negligible concern to adults. the FDA has banned the use of BPA in the manufacture of baby bottles but has not banned it from being used in food packaging even in the case of baby food and formula despite protests from several interst groups. The paper mentioned in Heidi's blogpost was published only a couple of weeks ago so it will be interesting to see what impact it has on this debate.

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