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“Genes (are not) Activated by Sound!”

Posted on October 10, 2011 by James Kohl.

Snap, Crackle, Pop: The ridiculous proposal that genes are activated by sound dissolves into the background noise of unintelligent and unrealistic expectations inspired by journalism for the masses: Female flies’ immune genes turned on by males’ song

On October 9th, 2011, the human-ethology group’s moderator: Jay R. Feierman, announced: “Genes Activated by Sound!”in the title of his post. This is the most blatant misrepresentation of facts I have seen by someone who knows it is a misrepresentation.

Genes cannot be activated by sound! There is no sensory pathway that could allow it. The abstract of the article helps to clarify the reality that Feierman denies, if only by default. “These changes were modest in both the number of genes involved and fold-changes, but notably dominated by antennal signalling genes involved in olfaction as well as neuropeptides and immune response genes.”

The genes involved in the response to sound are not activated by sound. They are among those that code for responses to odors and to pathogens, and they generate a neuropeptide-linked response. The neuropeptide: gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), drives the response to olfactory/pheromonal input, and its receptor is responsible for the development of associated immune system response in all species that sexually reproduce (e.g., from yeasts to mammals: See Kohl, 2006/7 for review).

From the article: “Why do we see subtle changes in so many genes involved in olfactory signalling? The simultaneous activation of the olfactory system when hearing conspecific song could enhance the sensitivity of pheromone detection during courtship.”

From flies to birds, it is the simultaneous activation of the olfactory system and the immune system by chemical signals associated with hearing a conspecific’s song that fine tunes the song, and that is how the song becomes species specific. Olfactory/pheromonal signals are chemical signals. Neuroscientists are readily convinced that these chcmical signals fine tune the species-specific song and that the song cannot fine-tune the response to species-specific chemicals. That’s because the chemicals that fine tune the auditory response are species-specific pheromones.

There are no species specific auditory, visual, or tactile stimuli. What one fly or bird hears, sees, or physically contacts is the same as what any other fly or bird hears, sees, or physically contacts. Auditory, visual, and tactile stimuli do not vary by species. But chemical stimuli are species specific, sexually dimorphic, and individual immune system-dependent signals of reproductive maturity and fitness. The chemical signals allow one bird to determine the differences among other birds of its species; other birds of the same or opposite sex, and to determine which bird is likely to be the best choice for a mate.

Pheromones do this in all species that sexually reproduce. They are like the chemicals in food odors that allow the organisms of all species to make the appropriate choice of nutritious food, except the chemicals in food odors are not species specific. Many different species eat foods containing the same chemicals; they do not mate with their food. The differences in the pheromones of conspecifics direct mate choice, just like similarities in food odors direct food choice.

From the article: ‘Recently, it has been shown that antennae are actively tuned to the frequencies within homospecific song [37].”

I will reiterate: Acoustic stimuli are not homospecific; food odors are not homospecific; visual input is not homospecific; and physical contact is not homospecific, but pheromones are homospecific. Genes cannot be activated by auditory stimuli associated with birdsong any more than they could be directly activated by the sound of food! Yet Jay Feierman has already posted several more articles that appear to attest to the activation of genes by non-olfactory/pheromonal stimuli from the social environment.

Apparently, Jay Feierman misinterprets and misrepresents current research to promote his uniquely personal definition of behavior and dichotomous classifications of behaviors, which have no scientific purpose — all the while he also misinforms us about the scientific purpose of other’s research. Often, the purpose of research is to better understand behavioral differences. Evolved differences are genetic differences, and gene activation by sensory stimuli is central to our understanding of behavioral differences. To say that gene activation occurs due to sound in any species leads to concepts about behavioral development that incorporate gross misrepresentations of neuroscientific facts.

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James Kohl
Retired medical laboratory scientist

James Kohl




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