A gene is a linear sequence of nucleotides that serves as a functional, molecular unit of heritability. Within psychology, the study of genetics is typically concerned with understanding heritable influences on important constructs (or phenotypes) such as intelligence, personality, and psychopathology. Human genes are found within double-stranded DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) molecules, which (along with nongenic regions) make up chromosomes, larger units of DNA molecules. Genes influence variation in phenotype in part based on which alleles, or versions of genes differing in DNA base sequences, an individual has. For example, an allele of the phenylketonuria gene leads to intellectual disability and other problems if untreated.

Genes make proteins through a complex process called gene expression, during which the information in DNA is “read” and used to ...

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