Research: A parent’s experiences could influence structure and function of subsequent generations

Posted Feb 5, 2014

The BBC has published an interesting research report about how behavior can be affected by events that took place in previous generations that have been passed through genetic memory. This research is based on animal studies. The experiments showed that an event could affect the DNA in sperm. The brains and behavior of subsequent generations could be affected.

The study was conducted by Nature Neuroscience that shows mice that were trained to avoid a smell passed the avoidance to their “grandchildren.” These studies could be important for determining the causes of anxiety and phobias.

The animals in the study were trained to fear a smell that was similar to cherry blossom. Researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine looked at what was happening in the sperm. It turns out that the section of DNA that was responsible for sensitivity to the cherry blossom smell was more active in the mice’s sperm.

The mice’s offspring and their offspring were “extremely sensitive” to the cherry blossom smell and avoided it even though they never experienced it in their lives. Pretty fascinating stuff.┬áThere were also changes in brain structure found.

“The experiences of a parent, even before conceiving, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations,” stated the report.

This study proved evidence of “transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.” This means that the environment can affect an individual’s genetics, which can be passed on.

[Source: BBC]