Genetic–Memetic Prevention

  • Hoyle Leigh


Genes are turned on or off in early life in interaction with memes and environment through the mechanism of epigenesis and epistasis (interaction among genes). Mental health or mental illness is a result of interaction among vulnerability and resilience genes and salutary and pathogenic memes. Thus, memetic prevention of mental illness should focus on (1) reduction of stress memes for children with vulnerable genes and (2) prevention of pathogenic memes from taking up residence in the brain. An important preventive strategy would be early recognition of vulnerability genes. Stigmatization is a consideration, and is particularly problematic if there is no remedy for the genetic condition, but it seems that for mental illness, memetic intervention should be possible once the vulnerability genes have been identified. Furthermore, the recognition that so-called vulnerability genes might also serve an adaptive function and thus treatment may not be necessary for all individuals with such genes may alleviate stigmatization. Perhaps genetic testing should be performed for all suspected child abuse cases, and for those individuals with vulnerability genes, special attention could be paid either to remove the child from the environment or to provide closer attention, education, and care. Most destructive memes take up residence in the brain from early childhood and destroy or stunt the ability of the brain to develop adequate filtering and processing mechanisms for incoming memes. These destructive memes accept and exalt irrationality and blind faith and ask us to abandon critical thinking and reasoning – the memes and memeplexes associated with superstition, religion, and cultural traditions. As it is impossible to isolate children from exposure to the pathogenic memes of religion and culture, children should be exposed to as many different religions and cultures as possible, so that they can develop the ability to compare and critique them. Cultural diversity may confer immunity to toxic conformity memes as genetic diversity tends to confer enhanced immunity to infection. In addition to enhancing the skills of critical thinking, children should be taught how to take “time out” from the bombardment of memes from the environment. Teaching children techniques of broad-spectrum meme reduction, including relaxation and stress management, should help. It may be possible to vaccinate children against toxic memes through judicious exposure to attenuated pathogenic memes. Education from an early age in the acquisition and practice of rational and critical thinking will enhance the ability to identify incoming toxic memes. Once identified, toxic memes can be divested of their attractive and pleasing capsules and adornments and be relegated to the pool of irrational memes that can be a source of amusement rather than threat.


Mental Illness Childhood Abuse Critical Thinking Left Amygdala Vulnerability Gene 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA

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