Letter: It's nature and nurture - genes are not all

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Tom Wolfe's excellent article left out one major feature of the central nervous system, namely plasticity. Plasticity has been defined as the ability of nerve cells to alter any aspect of their phenotype, at any stage of development, in response to changes in their environment. If highly specific inborn circuits were present in the central nervous system, then this would imply the genetic determination of synaptic connections and would reduce to a minor role the effect of use and disuse on connectivity; this is contrary to known facts. "The nature of our own precious inner selves" is indeed influenced by nurture.

L S Illis

Consultant in Neurology Southampton University Hospitals

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