The Gene Pool Metaphor
Criminal Genes and The Law



The Neurobiologist's Guide to Buddha is an encyclopedia of mental disorders, personality traits, and other behaviors for which a genetic basis has been discovered.  The Guide is divided into categories of different behaviors.  In each category, genes are listed which are known to affect the behavior.  The information about the correlation between genes and behavior has been gathered from the scientific literature, primarily from human gene-linkage studies and transgenic animal experiments in which specific genes have been manipulated.  The Guide is an on-going project.  New genes are added regularly to it as new scientific studies are published.

The title of the Guide is intended to evoke the controversy about the role of heredity in determining human behavior.  The Buddhist rejects heredity as the prime determinant of behavior while the neurobiologist thinks it rules it.

In Buddhism, it is believed that by focusing deeply within oneself, an individual can learn to completely control his mind and the feelings which emanate from it.  A principal teaching of Buddha is that a root of human suffering is craving, the desires and the "thirsts of the physical body."  By following a certain path in life, through meditation and mind-control, Buddhism teaches that craving, and other feelings which cause suffering, can be eliminated. 

For the neurobiologist, the mind is the brain, a highly sophisticated organ comprised of billions of specialized cells, called neurons.  These neurons are interconnected with one another to form an elaborate cellular network.  All our unconscious and conscious activities originate in this vast network, arising from coordinated interactions between neurons, integrating and shunting information from one region of the brain to another.  The mind-brain, itself, is a product of the genes.  Like a musical score which is followed by an orchestra playing a melody, the genes provide the directions to build and operate the brain.  The mind is commanded, controlled, and confined by the DNA in the genes.  According to the neurobiologist, a Buddha-mind can not be achieved unless one is endowed with the genes -- the Buddha-genes -- which allow it.
One of the goals of the Guide is to navigate the reader through the scientific literature on genes and behavior.  Among the categories of behaviors are the basic personality traits: Openness to experience (e.g., novelty-seeking), Agreeableness (e.g., aggression), and Neuroticism (e.g., anxiety).  To  find out whether a genetic component has been identified for aggression,  the page is advanced to the topic AGREEABLENESS.  More than a dozen different genes are listed which have been linked to aggressive behavior.  The majority of these associations come from genetic experiments with animals ["GE" or genetic engineering] in which a specific gene has been targeted.  The remainder are from studies in humans where genetic differences ["HGL" or human gene linkage] were found to correlate with aggression.  The GE studies suggest possible genes to screen in human populations for evidence of linkage with aggressive behavior.  Does the presence of a mutant aggression gene mean susceptibility or causality? What happens in an individual who possesses mutations in more than one aggression gene?  Does he become a pathological monster?  Is a person culpable for criminal conduct when he has a genetic disease that is responsible for his behavior?  Criminal genes and the law.  These are the kinds of questions that can be explored through The Neurobiologist's Guide to Buddha.

The Neurobiologist's Guide to Buddha is divided into general categories of personality, behaviors, sensations, and specific psychological disorders.  To view a category, click on it.  Each category contains a list of genes associated with the behavior.  If a scientific report failed to find an association between a particular gene and behavior, the gene is highlighted in red and marked with an asterisk ("*").  In some cases, different results have been obtained for the same gene.  This is is indicated by highlighting the gene in blue and marking it with a plus ("+").  A different result for the same gene may indicate an actual controversy when the same allele has been studied, or, it may reflect a positive correlation with one allele, but a negative correlation with another, when multiple different alleles have been analyzed.