human brain is the most complex of all biological organs; it

human brain is the most complex of all biological organs; it not only gives rise to consciousness-that most fascinating but elusive phenomenon-but also mediates our behavioural responses. seem to be innate or predisposed by genes. Today most scientists agree that genes alone do not cause behaviour but merely influence how an individual will react to a particular set of environmental and biographical circumstances. Genes are seen as determinants of behaviour insofar as they code for the assembly of the neural circuits that are necessary for the development and survival of the organism. But how does the brain which owes its functional structure partly to the concerted action of genes give rise to or cause behaviour? These were some of the questions that were addressed at the seventh European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL)/European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) joint science and society Rabbit Polyclonal to ZADH2. conference on ‘Genes Brain/Mind and Behaviour’ held on 3-4 November 2006 at the EMBL in Heidelberg Germany which are discussed further in this special issue of to create consciousness. The second Zanamivir group of essays in this special issue focuses on new technologies that have grown out of behavioural genetics and the brain sciences and on the influence that their application has or will have on society. These essays deal with various applications of science to monitor and map the brain and to influence human behaviour as well as the ethical questions that many such applications entail. Stéphanie Perreau-Lenz Tarek Zghoul and Rainer Spanagel argue that a better understanding of clock genes can pave the way for new therapeutic approaches to treat pathological conditions such as addiction and depressive disorder (pS20). These are examples of what has been termed ‘neurotechnology’: tools that are designed to analyse cure and enhance the functions of the human nervous system especially the brain. At the leading edge of neurotechnologies are various forms of brain imaging and neuropharmacology. These techniques not only have been used for understanding normal brain function but also provide new insights into the physiological basis of neuropsychiatric disorders. Their future uses might extend to forensic and commercial purposes such as in marketing or research on consumer preferences. Clinical depression is the leading cause of disability Zanamivir in the USA and other countries today and is expected to become the second leading cause of disability worldwide-after heart disease-by the year 2020 (Murray & Lopez 1997 Klaus-Peter Lesch describes in more detail how variants of the serotonin system give rise to depression and other stress disorders (pS24) while Turhan Canli describes how his group has made the link from research around the molecular level of behaviour to clinical psychology in an approach that he has termed genomic psychology (pS30). The pharmaceutical industry has already responded to the apparent increase in behavioural disorders with new anti-depressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and Zanamivir stimulants to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Although their prescription-to children in particular-is rapidly increasing there are few clinical studies on young patients who take psychotropic drugs. The article by Ilina Singh therefore provides a unique insight into how children who are subjected to stimulant treatment engage in clinical research as capable and informed actors and she convincingly refutes protective impulses to exclude children from clinical studies (pS35). Degenerative disorders of the brain such as Alzheimer disease and Parkinson disease are among the largest public-health problems in fast-ageing populations. But intense efforts by the pharmaceutical and biotech industry have produced no cure or treatment to halt or even reverse neurological degeneration in older individuals. Lars Sundstrom describes a new drug-development strategy that might help to provide these much-needed therapies: so-called ‘chemical genomics’ (pS40). Instead of identifying possible drug targets and then searching for compounds that interfere with them numerous compounds are tested on biological material-cells tissues or model organisms such Zanamivir as or zebrafish for example-to see if they can trigger the desired physiological.