Scientists have developed a database of genetic information from Iceland’s small population, where everyone is related to everyone else, and have new clues about what causes both mental and physical illness. This information is finally helping to answer the age-old question: how much of what happens to us is due to nature (genes) and how much to environment? “I believe the majority of human destinies have a genetic component,” says Dr. Kari Stefansson.

For instance, the researchers looked at the DNA of 26 extended families that each had at least one member who had been diagnosed with panic disorder and found common genetic changes on chromosome 9. “Anxiety?that was one I was a little bit skeptical of in the beginning,” Stefansson says. “I always thought anxiety was inseparable from the human condition.” This genetic abnormality may also explain phobias, general anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disease (like the kind that affects the TV detective ?Monk?). They also found a gene called neuregulin 1 that is associated with schizophrenia in every Icelandic patient who has this disorder.

Stefansson’s team also found a gene associated with stroke, which they have named STRK 1. It controls an enzyme found in the artery walls and may make some people build up material in their blood vessels that can break off and cause a stroke or a heart attack. “It is not one of the diseases in which you would have thought that genetics played the most important role,” Stefansson says. “But if you think about it, in genetics your genome is a blueprint. You inherit a predisposition.”

Does this mean we no longer have to blame our lifestyle for our illnesses? Maybe?but it could also mean that we need to learn our genetic predispositions, so we know what to watch out for.

Can we change our physical bodies, no matter what genes we inherited, so that we can become more spiritual human beings? Joseph Chilton Pearce says we can in ?The Biology of Transcendence?,click here.

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