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Education Science

Genetic Glitch May Prevent Kids From Learning From Their Mistakes 500

jamie pointed out an interesting piece being featured in Newsweek that claims a "genetic glitch" may prevent some kids from learning from their mistakes to the same degree as others. "If there is one thing experts on child development agree on, it is that kids learn best when they are allowed to make mistakes and feel the consequences. So Mom and Dad hold back as their toddler tries again and again to cram a round peg into a square hole. [...] But not, it seems, all kids. In about 30 percent, the coils of their DNA carry a glitch, one that leaves their brains with few dopamine receptors, molecules that act as docking ports for one of the neurochemicals that carry our thoughts and emotions. A paucity of dopamine receptors is linked to an inability to avoid self-destructive behavior such as illicit drug use. But the effects spill beyond such extremes. Children with the genetic variant are unable to learn from mistakes. No matter how many tests they blow by partying the night before, the lesson just doesn't sink in."
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Genetic Glitch May Prevent Kids From Learning From Their Mistakes

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  • Takes all kinds (Score:5, Interesting)

    by XanC ( 644172 ) on Monday August 11, 2008 @09:29PM (#24562679)

    Is this humanity's insurance policy against catastrophic changes, where the old rules don't apply?

  • by houbou ( 1097327 ) on Monday August 11, 2008 @09:44PM (#24562801) Journal

    I'm not surprised anymore at articles such as this one. Our DNA is basically a blue print of who we are. Our limitations, strengths, etc...

    While we are also a product of our environment, it's interesting to see how as we move forward in the research of the human body and mind, many of our issues which we would have deemed "environmental", are actually genetic.

    So, the question is, can we fix this? And then, if we fix it, are we a different person? or just better? Is our individuality really based on our DNA? what does that make of the human soul? Not a religious person by nature, I do think there is a God, but, I believe that humanity has the right and the responsibility to learn as much of itself as possible, in order to survive and to improve as a species.

    To me, an interesting question that raises is about our soul, such as, is our individuality link to it? or not? Having read and seen documentaries that a person on their death bed loses weight as they migrate from life to death. Many believe that our "soul" has a quantitive weight.

    Who are we? If one could fix a learning disability by "re-wiring" our DNA, then, what's this "soul" thing to us?

    Could it be that really, our version of heaven is actually our ability to learn about ourselves to the point where we can engineer our own immortality?

    After all, for many, heaven is a blissful eternity of life after death. That's what many religions sell in their brochure :P (I said MANY, not all)

    Is our goal to achieve long life by understanding our DNA? is this really what our reward will be? our quest for immortality lies within our reach in research and understanding of ourselves and what makes us really tick? :)

    This thread may sound off beat to the topic at hand, but, I personally think it that there is a link.

    Being able to fix a person by DNA so that they can finally "learn" from their mistake, is a behavioral fix. Done using medical treatment. To me, this means that there could be a day where "Psychology" as we know it might actually end, and DNA fixes could actually be the cure to depression, etc...


  • Re:Takes all kinds (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gregbot9000 ( 1293772 ) <> on Monday August 11, 2008 @09:51PM (#24562847) Journal
    Well, until recently, pretty often. It 30% shows me there is obviously some form of survival benefit to this for it to be so high.

    They cast this in a very negative light, calling it a disability, but the inability to learn from mistakes is actually a god send. I don't know how many people I've seen get knocked down at work, or turned down by women and not get back up. It's the people who throw themselves at things against the odds and keeps fighting that truly captures the imagination. I'm not surprised it is as low as 30% when you see the state of politics and society.

    Mostly this article is a crock of shit. Genetics is becoming the new astrology, and I see little evidence that what they say really applies on a macro level.
  • by liquidpele ( 663430 ) on Monday August 11, 2008 @09:56PM (#24562885) Journal
    There was a story months ago about how Dems brains differed from Reps in that Dems would change their mind about things more, while Reps would usually stick to their original decision no matter what. Can't find it on google though...
  • On the bright side (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xPsi ( 851544 ) * on Monday August 11, 2008 @09:56PM (#24562891)
    I'm guessing there are many perfectly productive and successful adults out there who also have this "defect." Like ADD and OCD, which can morph into powerful creative and focusing skills as positive adult byproducts, I'm betting this one can manifest itself as otherwise helpful traits such as "never giving up", "persistence in the face of resistance", etc. "Once bitten, twice shy" probably isn't a meaningful phrase for them and they likely wouldn't suffer from a host of ordinary hangups that stymie many adults (who learned from mistakes in an ordinary fashion).
  • off topic? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Monday August 11, 2008 @09:57PM (#24562893) Journal

    There are several studies available on "the Google" where you can find that genetically, we as a species are bound to obey the genetic code we are born with, whether that is good or bad. This is just another example. You'll see in my journal that the MWNN regarding atheists. This supports the atheist understanding of the world. We are born as we are, mostly accidental, or luck of the draw regarding genetics. There is no deity responsible for this. What a reprehensible thought that an all powerful and all knowing deity would do this to people?

    As a hobby, I try to build small autonomous robots, and generally speaking most people believe that the human experience is the 100% value or perfect way of interacting with the world. What they forget, and what I like to call 'failure mode' is that we humans are anything but perfect: bad vision, autism, this story's problem, and many other failures. Ever bump into the wall in the dark? There is another failure.

    We are far from perfect, hardly worthy of being called a creation of an all powerful being. Destructive behavior is what we excel at. Brilliant design, eh?

    Back on topic: for the most part, we are finding genetic reasons for many problems with the human race. Even if they could all be corrected, I'm not sure it will improve our situation. I sometimes think that we are trying to save nature's discards. Amazing really. Apparently war fixes some of the overpopulation, or used to.

    The answer to such problems is fantastically unimaginable. How do you fix the discards and keep population withing the realms of what the planet can support? China has taken a step in that direction and it has caused unimaginable hardships for their population; selling babies, hiding from the government, fear of things that are only natural.

    So, what are we to do with things like this? What are we to do with people like this? Fix them, or abort them?

  • Re:Takes all kinds (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bigstrat2003 ( 1058574 ) * on Monday August 11, 2008 @10:02PM (#24562925)

    I don't know how many people I've seen get knocked down at work, or turned down by women and not get back up. It's the people who throw themselves at things against the odds and keeps fighting that truly captures the imagination.

    That's giving up hope. Learning from your mistakes would be getting turned down by a woman, analyzing what might have led to that outcome, and trying to fix it.

  • by Normal_Deviate ( 807129 ) on Monday August 11, 2008 @10:03PM (#24562945)
    It's interesting to find a brain mechanism for persistence versus adaptation, but not interesting to add an exaggerated normative claim. If at first you don't succeed, (1) Quit; (2) Try again; or (3) Split the difference and alter the plan. Different people favor different strategies. Pretty obvious and pretty benign, unless your objective is to get research funding "for the children".
  • segregation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Monday August 11, 2008 @10:08PM (#24562983) Homepage

    Whether it's a disability or not, I think we should seriously consider segregating the two populations and putting them in different classrooms. I bet that, to achieve their best, they'll need radically different teaching methods.

  • Re:Takes all kinds (Score:3, Interesting)

    by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Monday August 11, 2008 @10:20PM (#24563067)

    Perhaps, perhaps not.

    Consider that many kinds of sociopathy have the same kind of behavioral characteristics, but also include lack of guilt, inability to love, and parrotting of a number of emotions.

    Correlation != Causation, but the relationship of risky behaviors and inabiity to learn from many kinds of mistakes also typifies the pathology of sociopaths.

  • by schon ( 31600 ) on Monday August 11, 2008 @10:32PM (#24563135)

    (is there nothing that the Simpsons don't have an appropriate quote for?)

    Scientology and abortion.

    Scientology because Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart) is a die-hard scientologist, and (if you believe the rumors) has threatened to quit if they poke fun at it. The closest they got was "The Joy of Sect" (wherein most of Springfield joins a cult.)

    Don't know the reason behind the abortion stance. Maybe because it's too hard to joke about tastefully.

  • Rethinking religion (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jabbrwokk ( 1015725 ) <> on Monday August 11, 2008 @10:42PM (#24563209) Homepage Journal
    I think your comment is right-on to the topic. This finding, if it bears out, kind of blows the whole "sin" doctrine right out of the water, doesn't it? If some people cannot help but repeat their mistakes, how can they ever be "saved" from sin?
  • by nomadic ( 141991 ) <nomadicworld AT gmail DOT com> on Monday August 11, 2008 @10:52PM (#24563271) Homepage
    I've got ADD and although I'm very intelligent, I haven't been an 'A' student since freshman year of high school. I can learn things well, but I continue the same behaviors that prevent me from succeeding, such as reading Slashdot (among other things) instead of doing homework.

    I had the same problem, I've been a 'B' student my whole life. From elementary through high school, where a B wasn't good, to college, where a B was about average, to law school where a B is pretty damn good. I think there's probably at least a few people somewhere who studied more for one class in one semester than I studied in 24 years of schooling. Though honestly I really regret not getting treated early on, I think I missed some good opportunities there.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 11, 2008 @11:00PM (#24563331)

    [[Having read and seen documentaries that a person on their death bed loses weight as they migrate from life to death. Many believe that our "soul" has a quantitive weight.]]

    You fucking tool. Recommend running your own, scientifically accurate studies rather than listening to pre-conceived notions from a 1907 experiment dealing with inaccuracies, small sample size, and irreproducibility.
    AC because I'm feeling a bit irritable and want no chance of a karma hit, apparently even on /. you can find idiots that believe the soul weighs 21 grams.

  • Re:'Illicit'? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geekgirlandrea ( 1148779 ) <> on Monday August 11, 2008 @11:09PM (#24563407) Homepage

    You'll have to pardon me for not discussing the details of some highly personal experiences on Slashdot. In the particular instance I'm thinking of, about two years ago I pretty much got a personal guided tour of my own unconscious with respect to a certain issue that was causing me a great deal of pain at the time, and it allowed me to go ahead and make some really drastic changes over the next few months and pretty much completely remake my life. That isn't something that could have happened without a great deal more of pain and struggle otherwise, and probably without such successful results otherwise. Knowing all the details of it, the notion that it would have turned out anything like as well without suitable chemical assistance is just too silly to merit consideration.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 11, 2008 @11:33PM (#24563555)

    (Damn AC... I hope someone sees this)

    Try taking about 400-500 mg of vitamin B6 supplements every day. B6 is the catalyst for dopamine production in the brain, and there is a notable body of research that shows megadoses of vitamins work very well for mild to moderate symptoms.
    (sorry on the no linky, google "orthomolecular medicine" for info)

  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) * on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @12:00AM (#24563757) Homepage

    I was never diagnosed with ADD, but I'm discovering as an adult that I do indeed have it. Are there any tips or behaviour changes that help to complete projects without taking medication?

    Practice focusing on things. Take projects in small, defined chunks. Keep disciplining yourself to stay on task. Avoid working in environments with lots of distractions (i.e., lay off of Slashdot).

    I'm sure that there are more in depth studies around, although a quick Google search was actually disappointing. But the brain is pretty plastic, you can learn new behaviors, it's just hard and takes time. Hence the popularity of drug treatment.

  • Re:Illicit? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stevejsmith ( 614145 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @12:16AM (#24563881) Homepage
    Not to mention heroin overdoses. There is no such thing as an overdose - opiates are relatively non-lethal - especially for junkies, who would never be able to afford ten times their normal dose (the minimum it would likely take to kill someone) at prohibition-level prices. In reality, heroin "overdoses" are almost always a result of an addict taking the drug in combination with alcohol, benzodiazepines, or who knows what else, either voluntarily or involuntarily. But even the voluntary ones might not be so voluntary - addicts might substitute these other far more dangerous drugs because heroin is unavailable, not because they would take it as their first choice. Not to mention that even these deaths by combination of drugs are slow and can be easily reversed with a Naloxone pen. Do a Google search for "heroin overdose."
  • Re:Takes all kinds (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:30AM (#24564669) Homepage

    I would say that this variation may survive because the persons having it are more persistent about getting sex.

    If it isn't improving your survivability it must be about sex. Otherwise it wouldn't survive for long.

  • by eugene ts wong ( 231154 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:43AM (#24564729) Homepage Journal

    You are very insightful.

    I think that the problem has to do with FUD. There was a PBS documentary about the divisive nature of US politics. Many towns/cities which were typically neutral made sudden shifts. Some became Republican. Some become Democrat. In all cases, they found that there was a lot of FUD being spread around. I'm just paraphrasing. That's the message that I got from it.

    The bottom line is that we have more in common with each other, than we do with the politicians that supposedly match our views. Yet, we turn to those polticians and get betrayed time and time again.

  • Hold on a minute... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by clickclickdrone ( 964164 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:52AM (#24565233)
    Every book on this area I've ever read says that the part of the brain that is responsible for cause/effect doesn't wire up properly until you're 18 and that's why teens/kids do dumb stuff. Has that one been thrown out as wrong now?
  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @05:51AM (#24565509) Journal

    TBH, I fail to see why that's a bad thing anyway, assuming that our goal _is_ to give all people the best education we can. (No kid left behind, etc.) As opposed to, say, a some fucked-up kind of show-business to make under-achieving parents of under-achieving children feel better.

    Well, or let me better qualify "bad thing." I don't think it's worse than putting everyone in the same classroom and then dumbing it down to the level where even the... _special_ kid on the right can feel special for being able to draw doodles like everyone else.

    Most (all?) of Europe isn't afraid to separate kids by skill level, at least at high school level. It wasn't just the USSR and co. I don't think it caused anything bad, so far. Even the USSR and its satellite states, for all we see their economical failures, look around you how many of your co-workers come from their universities. They managed to produce some well educated people. (Then they failed to use them, but that's a different failure.)

    Splitting by learning method actually seems to me like the logical next step. Instead of dumping someone into the lowest bracket just because their wiring doesn't fit the teachers' style, maybe there is some other way of teaching them stuff.

    And before it sounds like either a nerd-elitist opinion or conversely some kind of plot to isolate and oppress nerds, remember that ADHD and Aspergers' aren't all roses even as educational prospects go. For each ADHD kid that's found his niche with his home computer, there are a couple who just flunk because they just simply get bored to tears in classroom. For each Aspie who's become some great programmer or physicist, there'll be one or two who just got bullied around and discouraged, and maybe backed into some useless interest (as an Aspie you _will_ have a very narrow focus of interest) like remembering all the football scores since 1900. Or flunked because their narrow interests didn't include geography and victorian english literature and God knows what else. Maybe we can guide them down a better path.

    Even for neurotypicals, well, maybe they can do better if they don't have to compete with the local autism-spectrum disorder kid. Or at least find a better passtime than taunting the nerd.

    It won't be a neat 70/30 split, duly noted, but it will be a good start anyway. We don't build all tools the exact same way, we don't raise all animals the same way (raising chicken can be slightly different from raising sheep), we don't plant all plants the same way, so, umm, I fail to see why we must teach everyone the same way _if_ we have enough proof that their brains do work differently.

    It will be more expensive, though. That much is obvious.

  • Re:'Illicit'? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by maxume ( 22995 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @07:44AM (#24566153)

    I do not have a prohibitionist agenda.

    I have severe doubts about everyone's (so I am explicitly including myself here) ability to make sense of subjective experiences in a reasonable way, and to report, to themselves, their experiences in an accurate and honest way. There is no reasonable way to separate the hallucinogenic experience from the later freedom that having a 'reason' to explain changes you elected to make.

  • Re:off topic? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @09:00AM (#24566817) Homepage

    There is no deity responsible for this. What a reprehensible thought that an all powerful and all knowing deity would do this to people?

    That doesn't seem too clear to me. It seems to disregard the possibility of an all-powerful deity who likes to keep things interesting. Maybe he likes to mix things up, keep us guessing. Maybe he likes to bring us down a notch now and then, and keep us humble. Or maybe all these "failures" aren't quite as defective as you like to think. None of us are capable of seeing all ends.

    A random off-topic possibly-offensive example: I know some people who have argued that genetic homosexuality would be a defect, because there would be no evolutionary advantage to the trait-- it would be unlikely to be passed on. Ignoring for a second the questionability of using evolutionary fitness to determine morality, this also fails to take into account the complexity of evolution in social (pack) animals. I read an article not too long ago that suggested that incidence of homosexuality may be more frequent in crowded populations (even in animals), perhaps suggesting that it serves to diminish sexual competition among males in crowded situations.

    Also, there are some studies which suggest that many "learning disabilities" aren't disabilities at all, but simply that people with those "disabilities" learn differently from the majority of the population. If we had tailored the education system to the "disabled" kids, then they would be very successful while the majority would appear to be "disabled".

    Finally, in this case of the "genetic glitch" that prevents kids from learning, it's likely that this gene is very helpful in many ways. Learning too quickly, for example, could lead to disastrous results. Imagine if everyone stopped trying after the first failure. The first time I tried to read, I failed, so I learned it was a waste of time. The first time I tried to build a flying machine, I failed, and so I learned it was impossible. I wouldn't be surprised if it was, in fact, better for a group dynamic (small as a pack or big as China) to have some people who just never learn. I've known some people who probably have that "glitch" who manage to turn it into something semi-productive. They're just relentless.

  • Re:Takes all kinds (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @09:12AM (#24566961) Journal

    Sex trumps survivability most of the time. If an organism survives long enough to reproduce, its line carries on.

    I know some people who are dumber than boxes of rocks, but they have lots of kids. Even if all the kids don't survive, some do. One woman I know has fourteen kids, thirteen still alive. She beats me at the evolution game thirteen to two.

    That said, it seems our species' survival is about adaptability. The world is certainly different than it was even in my grandparents' age, let alone 50,000 years ago.

  • Re:'Illicit'? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @10:59AM (#24568781) Journal

    I congratulate you on your sucessful journey to the center of your mind. I've taken such journeys, although it was long before you were born (I clicked your homepage, you look like one of my daughter's friends).

    Don't go there too often, though. I have friends who stepped over the edge, never to return. I haven't seen my friend Dave for a long time, he's a great guitar player but the voices in his head won't let him leave his mother's house (he is probably older than your parents).

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal