Posted on November 7, 2008 by Tia Lalani

The debate of nurture versus nature is an ongoing one in various fields of science.

by Kara Blizzard


The debate of nurture versus nature is an ongoing one in various fields of science. On November 17th, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus biology professor Dr. Neil Haave will talk about this controversial topic.

His colloquium is aptly titled, “You Are What Your Mother Ate.” Dr. Haave will speak about how the food that a pregnant mother eats could have lasting effects on her child.

During his PhD in the 1980s, Dr. Haave performed studies in which he examined the effects of different fats and drugs on rat foetuses and neonates. He said that similar studies have been done in the past twenty years, and “it appears that the kind of fat animals eat while they’re pregnant can affect how the brain structures are laid down.” This, in turn, can influence an organism’s behaviour and responses to stimuli.

Dr. Haave is currently teaching a course on the history and theory of biology. His class spends a lot of time examining biological determinism, which is the idea that genetic constitution determines what a person is like. In the past two decades, Haave said, research has shown that “it’s not just your genetic constitution that determines what you’re going to be, or how you respond to your environment, or how you live, but it also has to do with the kind of environment that you’re living in.”

And, as Dr. Haave will discuss during his colloquium, it depends also on the environment in the uterus. Part of this environment includes the kind of foods that a pregnant mother eats. According to Dr. Haave, “it’s really not nature or nurture. One doesn’t have priority at all. The genes and the environment really are interdependent…you can’t have one without the other.”

To learn more about how the prenatal environment can influence human development, come to the colloquium on November 17th, at 12:30 p.m. in C014.


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