The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 19 No. 2 • February 2016

Oh No, It Couldn’t Be, Could It??

There Might Be a Basis for PHRENOLOGY in the Histones of DNA

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You remember phrenology, right? That was a theory that is now considered bizarre if not outright nuts that the mentality of a person could be determined by the ridges and nooks and crannies of the outer surface of the skull.

How could that possibly be? It turns out that HDAC8, histone deacetylase 8, “specifically controls the patterning of the skull. Mutations in the HDAC8 gene are associated with Cornelia de Lange disease, a syndromic form of intellectual disability characterized by facial dysmorphisms.” (Bassett, 2014). In other words, the ridges and nooks and crannies of the skull (the pattern) are partially determined by HDAC8 and, when HDAC8 is mutated, associated with a disease of deficient mentality. Phrenology might have been mostly a lot of hand waving, but there could have been a little grain of truth there, too, buried under a bushel of bad statistics.

Histones are protein structures surrounding DNA in the nucleus (but not in mitochondrial DNA) that control access to DNA and, in this way, determine when genes are accessible for expression and when they are not (Bassett, 2014).


  • Bassett and Barnett. The role of dietary histone deacetylases (HDACs) inhibitors in health and disease. Nutrients. 6:4273-4301) 2014).

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