La Tentación Genética

Un gen para las capacidades sociales, nos dicen, ha entrado al rápidamente creciente pantheon de genes "para" varios comportamientos y disposiciones humanas, tomando su lugar al lado de los genes para la toma de riesgos, la felicidad, la agresividad y la oritentación sexual, entre otros. A uno le da la impresión de que estamos sin duda en el camino de descubrirnos por completo y de que somos mucho más simples de lo que nadie imaginó. Después de todo, la destreza para la conversación en un coctel -o la adicción a los cocteles- puede estar igualmente determinada genéticamente que el color del pelo.

Definir el papel que tienen los genes en el comportamiento, sin embargo, no es tan fácil. Muchos de los resultados de los estudios en humanos son altamente preliminares y no identifican de facto a un gen. De hecho, no pueden hacerlo, pues la experimentación genética en humanos es imposible. Incluso en los animales cuyos genes son más fácilmente estudiados y mucho mejor entendidos, como la Drosophila , la pequeña mosca de la fruta, no hay una simple correspondencia uno a uno entre el gen y el rasgo de comportamiento. En cambio, una amplia variedad de genes influencian cada característica.

Los genes de la mosca de la fruta son sorprendentemente similares a los nuestros, igual que a la mayoría de las otras criaturas. Incluso muchos aspectos de su comportamiento se asemejan a los nuestros. Por ejemplo, cuando se entrena a una mosca de la fruta para que prefiera un aroma a otro a través de una simple tarea de aprendizaje, recordará mejor si se le entrena en intervalos repetidos durante un largo tiempo que si se hace en sólo una intensa sesión. Las moscas de la fruta no son genios, pero "embotarlas", como a veces hacemos antes de un examen, no funciona mejor para ellas que para nosotros. Incluso, más recientemente, los científicos del Instituto de Neurociencias de San Diego demostraron que de acuerdo a todos los criterios de definición esenciales las moscas de la fruta duermen de noche.

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