Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Winds of change

As of this week, I'm unemployed...or as my husband says, retired. I've left my editorial job to go on sabbatical for the experience of a lifetime. We'll be leaving in June to take our sailboat to the South Pacific islands and New Zealand for 15 months.

I celebrated my freedom by flying south to appear at The Book Works in Del Mar on Monday night, which was tremendous fun. Owner Lisa Stefanacci and her husband Tom Albright are card-carrying neuroscientists, and they run a Brain-Mind series of lectures with a very sophisticated and enthusiastic audience. I got great questions, including a few that I haven't been asked before on the lecture circuit.

My favorite (from a high school senior) was "Do our genes influence how we learn from our environment?" You bet they do - and it gets even more complicated than that. Our genes give us behavioral tendencies that lead us to seek out particular experiences, which in turn can change the way our genes affect brain development. For example, a baby who is naturally cautious may be born into the same family as a child who is enthusiastic about new experiences, but the two children will not have the same environment because their behavior will cause the adults in their lives to treat them differently. As we say in the book, nature versus nurture is the wrong way to look at it. Your genes and environment interact throughout life to make you a particular person.

Tuesday morning, I spoke with David Shipley about our willpower op-ed for the New York Times op-ed podcast, which was posted today. Then I flew home to start getting ready for the sailing trip.

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