Week 2- An Introduction to Epigenetics and its Connection to Radicalism

Apr 08, 2022

Welcome back!
I went into the lab this week and introduced myself to the graduate students who were doing research there and sat in on an epigenetics lecture. I also spent this week doing further literary analysis on the topic. Epigenetics is the study of heritable phenotype changes that do annoy involve alterations in the DNA sequence. And phenotypes are defined as observable physical properties of an organism that are determined by the set of genes the organism carries and the environmental effects on these genes. Epigenetics has a major effect on the developmental changes that people experience, and that’s why this area of study is related to my research topic. To understand the neurobiological basis of radicalization, we must first understand the epigenetics of aggression. That is what this week’s blog post will focus on, and I will distinguish aggression into two categories, proactive and reactive aggression. Proactive aggression is defined as instrumental, organized, and thought to be related to the anticipation of a reward. Reactive aggression is an impulse response to a perceived threat.

In animals and humans, aggression is controlled by serotonergic and dopaminergic pathways. In the literary analysis that I did of functional and twin studies, I concluded that the overstimulation of these pathways ends up increasing the measures of aggression. While serotonin is implicated in several neurobiological; mechanisms of aggression and violence, the dopaminergic intervention of the striatum is proposed to mediate behaviors such as impulsivity and temperament. The functional variants of genes regulating dopaminergic activity can modulate aggression-related traits.

All of these play a role in the radicalization process of extremist groups where they try to isolate and reinstall knowledge into people who are already prone to extremist beliefs. In addition to the brain chemicals that can make someone predisposed to increased aggression. In twin studies, non-shared environmental factors are found to be as important as genetic factors. This means that the epigenetics of people can be changed by triggering early life events. This means in alongside the convincing nature of brainwashing that goes into radicalization, there are also changes in brain chemicals that can be retriggered in later stages of life by these groups. This emphasizes the point that a one-dimensional study focused on only sociology is not enough to understand the true nature of radical thought. Neurobiological research is necessary to understand and support these topics.

Next week, the university where I intern will be closed for spring break. I will spend that time investigating currently implemented deradicalization techniques that are being used and rank them on their efficacy, affordability, and whether they can be widespread. Also, I will further explain how external influences such as gaming, insomnia, isolation, and traumatic events might make someone more susceptible to radicalization efforts.
See you later!

2 Replies to “Week 2- An Introduction to Epigenetics and its Connection to Radicalism”

  1. Luc M. says:

    Your findings on the nature and nurture aspects of radicalization are super interesting. It was fascinating to learn how aggression is controlled by serotonergic and dopaminergic pathways, and how environmental factors also play a big role in radicalization!

  2. Sid R. says:

    It’s super cool to learn about the epigenetics of aggression! Looking forward to hearing about deradicalization techniques. Do you think there exists a point where pursuing deradicalization techniques on an extremist would not be helpful?

    Keep up the good work, Amber!

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