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Dr. William J. Sullivan, featured on several media outlets including National Geographic and CNN, talks about his latest book Pleased to Meet Me: Genes, Germs, and the Curious Forces that Make Us Who We Are.

In this interview, he explains

  • his designation of the four major themes that operate as hidden forces in our biological makeup,
  • why his “Meet Your Demons” chapter speaks to trends in our criminal system, and 
  • why readers find more empathy for addiction sufferers after gaining a better understanding of genetics and epigenetics. 

Dr. Sullivan is the Showalter Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Indiana University School of Medicine where he studies infectious diseases and genetics. His new book stems from research in his university lab that studies Toxoplasma gondii, which can affect the brains and behavior of several organisms. He began investigating how microbes we don’t know about might affect our own brains and personalities in undiscovered ways.

Over the course of the podcast, he describes the many ways that human personality and behavior is extraordinarily complicated. He explains some of the genetics and epigenetics that make our reactions to our environment more outside of our control than we’d like to believe.

Our DNA, the effects of epigenetics, microbes that live inside and on us, and our evolutionarily-derived brain reactions all have different influences on our behavior, from how we vote to our eating habits to our ability to control impulses.

In addition, his web site links to articles that take a deeper dive into some of the science he explores in his book. See more at

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