Super Genes: Unlocking the Astonishing Power of Your DNA


Dr. Relly Nadler:
On this week’s show we are really excited to talk about your Super Genes: Unlocking the astonishing power of your DNA for optimal health and well-being. That is the title of the book that we are going to talk to Dr. Rudolph E. Tanzi about.

For decades we have been taught that genes are fixed and unchangeable. New York Times best-seller Dr. Rudy Tanzi with Deepak Chopra, say that is not the case. So it’s time to explode some of these rigid notions, writes Tanzi. On the Today Show Tanzi will tell everybody what the news is, that the gene activity is largely under our control.

We are really excited about Dr. Tanzi just being able to help us here. He has 475 published articles; also one of the top 1% researchers in neuroscience.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Dr. Tanzi, for those of you that don’t know, is the Vice Chair of Neurology and Research, he’s also Director Genetics and Aging Research at Mass General, The Institute for Neurodegenerative disease. He’s also the Joseph and Rhoads F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Tanzi has been investigating the molecular and genetic basis of neurological disease since 1980 when he participated in the pioneering study that led to the location of Huntington’s Disease genes, the first disease gene to be found by genetic linkage analysis. Since 1982 Dr. Tanzi has investigated the genetic causes of Alzheimer’s, he has co-discovered all three genes that cause early-onset familial AD, including the first familial AD gene, known as the amyloid β-protein (A4) precursor (APP), and the presenilin genes.

In 1993 Dr. Tanzi discovered the gene responsible for the neurological disorder known as Wilson’s disease. Over the past 25 years he has collaborated on studies identifying several other diseases and genes for those diseases including those causing those causing neurofibromatosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and autism.

Dr. Relly Nadler: In your new book, Super Genes, that you co-wrote with Deepak Chopra, tell us a little bit about how that came about and about the collaboration with him.

Dr. Rudolph Tanzi: Many years ago, I spoke at one of these TED type conferences call TEDmed. There was a session on aging; healthy aging. So I gave the science of aging, Deepak talked about the spiritual parts of aging. We also had Quincy Jones there talking about being a musician as he was still productive but older. But Frank Gehry talking about architecture and how his own process changed as he got older. It was a great session.

I met Deepak later, actually in the men’s room of all places. We started talking; he said he enjoyed my talk. We started talking about the brain and about how the brain is really more of a verb than a noun. That the brain is an activity. That led to our first book, Super Brain and talking about how dynamic and adaptive the brain is how really it’s in your control to determine how your neuro networks form; how you see your world, because your brain bringing you your world. So that was the first book, Super Brain.

An analogy; your genes also are an activity not so much a thing. Gene activity is changing all of the time. In biology we say “gene expression” which is the term we use for gene activity. So an analogous way we would talk about the fact that you have a huge amount of control on the expression of your genes even if you can’t control the genes that you get from mom and dad, you can change them.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: You know when we talk about gene expression, that’s so important because we are true believers in being able to, if you will, kind of change our destiny, our genetic destiny. I was on the board of Cancer Treatment Centers of America for some time and we talked about predisposition that people have.

Let’s get back to what your basic premise is in your book, Rudy. You write a lot about how we believe. That we get stuck with our genes, but how we can change out predisposition or these expressions for what our genes have programmed us for. Tell us a little bit more about how you began this investigation and how it led to this book.

Dr. Rudolph Tanzi: Well I guess it would be put in the context of Super Brain and how that lead to Super Genes. In both cases we addressed the fact that every day we are living with these subconscious or at some level even conscious limitations. We place these self-placed limitations about what we can do. In both books the message is the same; that simply by taking advantage of the fact that we are self-aware being, self-awareness. We can look in the mirror and know it’s us; we are self-aware. Our cat looks in the mirror and he sees another cat, right?

So self-awareness means that we can be aware of the fact that we have a brain that is serving us. We can be aware of the fact that mom and dad gave us genes that are serving us. Once you take that simple choice, you make that simple choice to observe; what’s my brain doing. Observe what are my genes predisposing be to in terms to what I’ve inherited, and you have conscious intention of your choices and behavior.

This is when we talk about the ability to go from having a baseline brain to a super brain. Or just baseline genes that just kind of throw you from here to there, to super genes where you actually, I don’t want to say take control, but make the choice to be aware of yourself and observe my family history, what am I up against in predispositions to disease or personality quirks; alcoholism or addictions—what am I up against?

What is my brain trying to make me do right now? You know that primitive brain stem and instinctive behavior. Just by simply taking the time to observe what your brain and your genes are doing, this in when we make the path toward having a super brain or super genes. So that’s the basis of the two books.

If you’d like to learn more, you can listen to this fascinating discussion above, without commercials.


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