Adversity during childhood can help someone build persistence and self-control a new study suggests, with implications for nature vs. nurture arguments.
Researchers at the University of Toronto found that an interaction between biology and life experience work to alter human development.
"Biologists used to think that our differences are pre-programmed in our genes, while psychologists argued that babies are born with a blank slate and their experience writes on it to shape them into the adults they become."
Instead, the important question to be asking is, 'How is our experience in early life getting embedded in our biology?'" said Marla Sokolowski of the University of Toronto, reported for Science Daily.
The study used fruit flies, which are surprisingly similar to humans, and deprived them of food and nutrition while they were young.
They used two kinds of fruit flies: rovers that forage and sitters that, well, sit, while food is present.
Rover flies, both when well fed and not, explored for food.
Reproductive fitness was also decreased in sitters deprived of food but not in rovers.
"The foraging gene makes an enzyme called PKG, which is found in the fly as well as in most other organisms, including humans. When faced with a nutritionally adverse environment while growing up, the levels of the enzyme dropped in flies," said Sokolowski, according to E! Science News.
"This told us that the foraging gene listens to its environment."
This has implications for how humans deal with early adversity and deprivation, showing that it was able to change the genes within the so-called "sitters" who were biologically-programmed not to forage.
Without food they became persistent and took control of their brief lives in search of food.
The new study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.