Analyzing Development of Twins – Neuro Bureau conducted the study!

I can officially call myself scientist!

Wait, what? You have no Ph.D.D, no college degree, you have not even finished high school?

Yes, that is all true. Yet, to be a scientist do you need all THAT?

No, you just need to have a formal understanding of natural or physical scientists. By that definition, I am a scientist of twins because I have officially conducted a study examining the emotional development of identical twins.

As previously mentioned in this post, this is a project I have been working on for the past month. In short, I am an identical twin myself and the concept of personality and emotions has always fascinated me most about the brain. Because of this interest, I wanted to accomplish two goals when conducting this study:

  1. Gain first-hand experience in the field of scientific studies and experience what it is like to be a scientist!
  2. Learn!

I feel confident that I accomplished these two goals and had a lot of fun in the process. A huge shout out to all the participants of the study, thank you for taking the time to complete the questionnaire.

Introducing… the Neuro Bureau twin study… curtains open in 3… 2… 1…

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In order to understand the nature vs. nurture genetics effects of twins. I studied the following 5 areas:

  1. How much they physically look alike
  2. How much they react to images and situations the same way
  3. Similarly of mannerisms
  4. Similarly of interests
  5. How much they have changed over the years.

How much they physically look alike

Despite, having a similar genetic code, the twins felt that they did not look like their twin anymore.


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Figure 1: How much do you like your twin?

So, why do twins grow apart appearances wise?

I know as a child, my twin and I were so identical we had to wear bracelets for our parents to differentiate us. Now, everyone believes we are siblings?

In order to answer this question, we need to understand controllable vs. uncontrollable features. For example, there are various physical features determined throughout life rather than during. These include height and weight which are influenced by what the twins eat and if they play sports. I know I personally am an avid runner so have more of an athletic frame versus my twin. Even more fascinating is that throughout our lives, there are also genes that can be turned on or off Рchanging the way twins look and behave.  So, just going to a different high school then my twin could have turned on or off a gene that changed the way I look. Wow!


How much they react to images and situations the same way

This was my favorite section of the questionnaire. I showed the twins an image and asked them their first response to the photo to test for differences in reactions and situations.

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 9.07.17 PM.png The image on the left was the first photo of a series I showed the twins. The goal of this particular image was to test the bravery of the twins. Other images tested if twins were messy or organized.  Interestingly, the identical twins were 80% more likely to react the same to the images then fraternal twins.  This finding suggests that similarly in the genetics of twins do cause them react similarly to images rather than environmental factors such as family values.

Some individuals seek out thrilling challenges because it causes their feel-good neurotransmitters to surge more than the average person. This twin study confirmed that identical twins that share the same genes are more likely to feel the same about thrill seeking versus fraternal twins, suggesting that taking risks in nurture, not nature.


Similarly of mannerisms

Through asking the twins about their mannerisms I found that the identical twins were 15% likely to have the same mannerisms. This was a very interesting find because it takes into account parental influence. The fraternal twins lived in the same household and were exposed to roughly the same amount of their parents which would suggest they would have the same mannerisms. However, this study proved that genetics still play a role and actually overpower the parental influence allowing twins to have similar mannerisms.


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Percent of mannerisms the twins had the same.

Similarly of interests

I asked the twins to list 5 interests that had in Elementary school, Middle School, and High School. I found that in both the fraternal and identical twins, the twins overlapping interests decreased over time. In identical twins, however, the sharp decline was extreme. Ultimately, the identical twins had NO common interests by high school time. Potinetlly this was caused by a rebellion against the other twin, they were the same for so long and now they want to be different? Or maybe parents putting them in different after-school activities to force differences?


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How much they have changed over the years

All times believed that they and their twins changed a lot over ten years. Identical twins were 95% more likely to say their twins changed less than fraternal twins. This proves that to identical twins, they feel more similar. This could be because from a young age they were told they were the same or because they genuinely are the same. This finding, in short, suggests that identical twins are more likely to be the same because of their genetics.


Conclusion: nature or nurture?

This study leans towards…. nurture. The identical¬†twins while having the same genes were just as likely if not less likely to have similar interests and looks like the fraternal twins. What this proved is that the environments the twins are in really do have an impact on them. While the identical twins may be more likely to have the same mannerisms and responses to situations, this did not create interests. What this proves is that interest is random. In many cases, interests are caused based off of what we are exposed to. As a child, I always went around saying I wanted to be a doctor. Therefore, my parents encouraged me to take science classes and bought me science books for my birthday. On the other hand, my parents put my twin in art classes which she loved. Now, she wants to become a museum curator! Yet, does she want to become a museum curator because of passion or because she was introduced to the field? If my parents put my twin in science classes and me in art history classes would we have different interests?


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Sources

[1] http://science.sciencemag.org/content/340/6133/756

[2] https://www.twins.org.au/twins-and-families/frequently-asked-questions/62-twin-facts/22-do-identical-twins-always-look-alike

[3] https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/howgeneswork/geneonoff

[4] http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/cells/cellcom/

[5] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201402/thrill-seeking-what-parts-your-brain-are-involved

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