How Life Experience is Written into DNA

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Moshe Szyf informed us through his Ted Talk, “How life experience is written into DNA,” of our genes and the way they’re “combined of two components” (15:17). He used rhetorical strategies to engage his audience in understanding the view of DNA through epigenetics which is the changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression. He provides many samples of experiments performed which show these layers of data . The two layers include the old information from millions of years of evolution and the epigenetic layer which includes the open and dynamic set up of a narrative that is interactive and allows us to regulate our destiny.

Credibility is important when it comes to scientific studies. Syzf does a great job of demonstrating his credibility throughout his presentation. In his Ted Talk his look is very formal and the crowd is focused on him since he is in the center of the auditorium. He starts off by introducing one of his colleagues and continues from then to his main topic on DNA. He discusses how the experiments done on these animals relate to human life and the way we could possibly change them. In his talk he includes that he is an epigeneticist which shows his credibility as an author since he knows what he is talking about and can relate to it through his own experiences.

Throughout his Ted Talk, Szyf includes several experiments he and his colleagues have performed which also establish his credibility and appeal to ethos. One of these experiments includes the observation of mother rats licking their pups after they are born. His colleague, Michael Meaney demonstrated that the biological mother didn’t define the property of stressfulness, but that the “mother that took care of the pups” (Syzf 2:03). This signified that epigenetics take part in the way these pups interpret their world once their mothers have died since the licking and grooming inform the pups of the environment they will be facing. This ties in with human life by the scenario of a single mother and her child.

Connecting back to the purpose, Syzf wants us to see how early life experiences like the grooming of the mother rats with her pups can affect them later in life when they must be on their own. Another experiment dealt with rats and cocaine. His colleague, Gal Yadid trained these animals to get used to cocaine and then for a month, he stopped giving them cocaine. Once Yadid brought the scenario back up the animals went crazy to the point that they would die which shows that their “genes are re-marked when the scenario is brought back up since their genome is ready to develop the addictive phenotype.” (Syzf 12:33) It ties in with human drug addictions. His main idea he is letting us know that although our DNA comes from within the womb and our experiences are what shape who are.

In his Ted Talk, Szyf uses a mix of both simple and scientific words towards his audience to reach more people. As an epigenetics, he engages with his audience by using informal diction and scientific language and then relating it back to his purpose on genetics. He uses words like “methylation marks” (Syzf 07:43), “biochemical signals” (Syzf, 02:48), “nucleus” (Syzf 02:48) to name a few. For the scientists in the audience these words might sound familiar but those who aren’t scientists these words might be confusing. He doesn’t do a really good job of explaining the meaning of giving a brief example of the word but I am assuming it is because his audience is mostly scientists who people who understand that language but if it was a regular audience with no scientifical background they would have a harder time understanding. He does this so the reader or listener knows he has background experience with what he is talking about so the audience can trust him even though they might not know the meaning of these words.

He is constantly asking questions before he introduces the next topic. For example, in relation to the rats becoming addicted to cocaine he asked, “can we reprogram the addicted brain to make that animal not addicted anymore?” (Syzf 11:49). Even though, he might not clearly answer the question he gives a scenario of the experiment done which relates back to the question. The experiments which dealt with monkeys related to human DNA since monkeys and humans are primates and have several similarities.

The experiments performed then tie into pathos. The experiments performed with the rats and the monkeys were both intended to back up Syfz’s purpose of early experience being written into our DNA. Although these experiments had admirable outcomes and may have had good intentions, they were drastic experiments because babies were taken from their mothers.

For example, in minute 07:34 Syfz talks about monkeys and the effects their mothers have and tested it which ended up in the orphan monkeys becoming alcoholics. As humans, we are created inside our mother’s womb so we have a special connection with our mothers from birth so if you put yourself in these animals is shoes then you will feel the sadness their mothers or babies might have felt when they were taken from their comfort zone.

Experiments are done to animals because they can’t be done on humans but although they may believe that it will not affect these animals it still does because they like humans have feelings that can get depressed. This could have caused his audience to drift away from the presentation since the experiments were a bit harsh. However, in every experiment, there will be people who agree and disagree that it is either a good or bad experiment but Syfz’s whole purpose was to demonstrate that what’s written in your DNA takes part in your early life experiences.

As you can see, Moshe Syfz used rhetorical strategies throughout his Ted Talk to specify his purpose and have supportive details that supported it.


Cite this paper

How Life Experience is Written into DNA. (2022, Mar 29). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/how-life-experience-is-written-into-dna/



Can life experiences change DNA?
Yes, life experiences can change DNA. For example, exposure to certain environmental factors, such as UV radiation or chemical pollutants, can cause changes in DNA that may be passed down to future generations.
What is epigenetic expression?
The epigenetic expression is the process by which the genetic information in a gene is converted into a phenotype. This process is mediated by the action of enzymes that modify the structure of chromatin, which is the complex of DNA and proteins that make up the chromosomes.
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