Heterogeneity of experiences and of their effects: Do they matter?
There is an abundance of evidence that experiences do have biological effects. The challenge is that the effects are quite varied – including epigenetics, the HPA axis, and the structure of the brain.
Do all experiences have similar effects or does the nature of the biological embedding vary by the type and severity of experiences? Do such differences account for individual differences in psychological or psychopathological outcome? Generally, there is growing evidence on the importance of gene-environment interactions in some circumstances. But are the genes ones that are concerned with vulnerability to adverse environments or, rather, are they concerned with susceptibility to all environments? These and other challenges are considered.
A presentation by CIFAR Advisory Committee Chair Sir Michael Rutter (King's College London) at CIFAR's From Cell to Society symposium Feb. 6, 2014.