A study done at Emory University School of Medicine, located in Atlanta, found that it could be possible for information to be passed down genetically by chemical reactions in our DNA. Basically, what this means, is that our phobias, and “inherit” knowledge about different things could actually be due to what our ancestors had experienced during their lifetimes.
Dr. Brian Dias, a researcher from the department of psychiatry at Emory University said:
“We have begun to explore an underappreciated influence on adult behavior – ancestral experience before conception.
“From a translational perspective, our results allow us to appreciate how the experiences of a parent, before even conceiving offspring, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations.
“Such a phenomenon may contribute to the etiology and potential inter-generational transmission of risk for neuropsychiatric disorders such as phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
In this particular study, published in the journal of Nature Neuroscience, researchers trained mice to fear the scent of cherry blossom by using electric shocks before allowing them to reproduce.
Their offspring later showed fearful responses to the smell of cherry blossoms in comparison to other neutral scents. And the fear didn’t stop with just the offspring, instead, it carried on to the following generation as well.
The brains of the trained mice, as well as their offspring, also showed structural changes in areas that are used to detect the scent.
The mice DNA had also changed, and carried the chemical changes, a phenomenon referred to as epigenetic methylation.
What this information could suggest is that what we experience is actually transferred from our brain to our genome, where an actual chemical change takes place, and then we pass this on to our offspring.
With this new information, researchers can look forward to working further to understand how information gets stored in the DNA in the first place. They could also explore whether similar changes take place in human genes.
A pediatric geneticist at the University College London stated that the research provided “compelling evidence” for the transmission of memories through genetics, adding’
“It addresses constitutional fearfulness that is highly relevant to phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders, plus the controversial subject of transmission of the ‘memory’ of ancestral experience down the generations.
“It is high time public health researchers took human transgenerational responses seriously.
“I suspect we will not understand the rise in neuropsychiatric disorders or obesity, diabetes, and metabolic disruptions generally without taking a multi-generational approach.”
Professor Wolf Reik, head of epigenetic at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge said that further work would be necessary before we could apply the same results to the human DNA.
He said: “These types of results are encouraging as they suggest that transgenerational inheritance exists and is mediated by epigenetics, but more careful mechanistic study of animal models is needed before extrapolating such findings to humans.”
Research like this is helpful to better understand the human mind, and what makes us the way that we are. As time goes on, with a better understanding of our own mind, we would be able to enhance treatments for various illness that are currently available, and also provide better treatment altogether. Furthermore, it is pretty interesting to think that our DNA could be carrying spiritual lessons and memories that have been handed down throughout generations of ancestors.