Nature / Nurture / Practice

Nature / Nurture / Practice

I was stunned by the man’s resource.

“It’s brain,” I said; “pure brain! What do you do to get like that, Jeeves? I believe you must eat a lot of fish, or something. Do you eat a lot of fish, Jeeves?”

“No, sir.”

“Oh, well, then, it’s just a gift, I take it; and if you aren’t born that way there’s no use worrying.”

“Precisely, sir,” said Jeeves.

– P.G. Wodehouse, Leave It to Jeeves


According to George Bartzokis, professor of neurology at UCLA, P.G. Wodehouse’s spectacularly inept raconteur Bertie Wooster is right on the money when it comes to the advantages furnished by frequent feedings on our fishy friends. Bartzokis proposes that the acquisition of both cognitive and behavioural abilities depends upon development of myelin, a neural insulator whose growth is promoted by fatty acids such as are found in breast milk – and fish. Perhaps you noticed the current craze for Omega-3 fatty acids? This is one of the health effects now being attributed to them.

For acquiring abilities, Bartzokis’ adds a third factor to the familiar “Nature / Nurture” dichotomy: “Practice”. “Nature”, you’ll remember, is what your gene pool stuck you with. “Nurture” is what your parent(s) did to you. “Practice” is what you’ve trained yourself to do: your “habits”, “routines” or “talents” – call them what you will.
NNP Triangle To find out more about the “Nature/Nurture/Practice” trichotomy, the role myelin plays in our acquisition of abilities, and ways we can all develop the sort of resources Bertie Wooster might only dote upon at a distance, check out Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code.  You’ll find related resources at