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Jan 29, 2019

My guest in this episode is a neurogeneticist who is unafraid to tackle some of the most politically charged questions in science. Dr Kevin Mitchell is an associate professor at the Institute of Neuroscience at Trinity College Dublin. His recent book INNATE sets out to show ‘How The Wiring of Our Brains Shapes Who We Are’, and in it he offers his take on the latest research into the biological underpinnings of intelligence, gender, sexuality, and psychiatric disorders.

We start off discussing the complexities of figuring out how genes link to psychological traits and how random ‘noise’ in the process of development may be crucial.

14:54 What’s the best metaphor for describing how genes work? Should we think of them as a blueprint, a program, a recipe or even a database?

21:52 I probe Kevin for his explanation of the Mystery of Missing Heritability. Why has molecular genetics not been more successful?

30:39 We tackle the brain differences between men and women, and explore the biological basis of homosexuality. Did you know we can deliberately breed homosexual rats?

45:44 We discuss Kevin’s view that psychiatric conditions are genetic and that genetics can transform the field.

58:11 Kevin leaves me with a brief, provocative outline of his view that we can have free will despite being in some sense biologically determined creatures.

Check out Kevin's book Innate: How The Wiring of Our Brains Makes Us Who We Are and also his blog Wiring the Brain.

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