Animal Study Suggests That Ancestral Fears Cause Brain Changes

Skibbereen_by_James_Mahony,_1847Is it possible that you fear something for no other reason beyond that your grandfather feared it as well?

Via BBC:

A new study published in Nature Neuroscience has shown that rats taught to fear a certain smell could pass that fear onto their offspring.

Marcus Pembrey, emeritus professor of paediatric genetics, says it has implications for our understanding of the “nature versus nurture” debate.

Prof Pembrey told the Today programme “sperm can carry information about the ancestral environment or experiences, in this case the conditioning shocks of the grandfather.”

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15 Comments on "Animal Study Suggests That Ancestral Fears Cause Brain Changes"

  1. kinda reminds me of Truman’s plight in The Truman Show, concerning his fear of the water.

  2. InfvoCuernos | Dec 2, 2013 at 6:06 pm |

    1.-This shoots the hell out the whole “ingram” b.s. from Dianetics
    2.-Does this mean that if you have racial fears, that those will be passed down genetically? That would go a long way to explaining tribalism.

    3.-Do these fears go away after generations of individuals don’t reenforce them, or are they programmed in for ever? Think about how point 3 relates to point 2. This could be very important.

    • Simon Valentine | Dec 2, 2013 at 7:12 pm |

      “go away”, “reenforce”, and the catchphrase “programmed in” have got me tuned into some analysis programmes.

      i should say that it (would) depend(s) on complexity, or more appropriately, difficulty. how many, how fast, how many per time, what order, what start, what finish. time for some good old fashioned jyggalag. does the curse outlast the lord of the spurned? madness!

      is the universe infinitesimal? cheese!? with holes in it. full in part by dear little tim. what part you say?!? haha! back to square one you’ve got! and quickly too! say, you can’t square my circle for me, too, can you? it’s just that i’ve got this rather pestly problem with some rats…

      • InfvoCuernos | Dec 2, 2013 at 9:16 pm |

        You were almost making sense there for a minute, then you took a nose dive into utter bullshit at “jyggalag”.

        • Simon Valentine | Dec 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm |

          i take it you’re in no way familiar with Sheogorath and Jyggalag. drasd.

    • Calypso_1 | Dec 3, 2013 at 12:39 pm |

      Are the racial fears based on odor?
      In this instance you need a direct change in receptor density & channel sensitivity of the chemical olfactory sense and the accompanying brain change.
      No evidence to show encoding from other senses as of yet. What would be really interesting is to find out what the mechanism is that alters the genes in spermatogenesis. Interestingly sperm also have an olfactory ‘sense’.

      • InfvoCuernos | Dec 3, 2013 at 3:16 pm |

        I did not catch the olfactory only aspect of encoding. I had assumed that since that was the primary sense in rats, that was the vehicle for encoding the fear in them, but not exclusively. Basically, I assumed that if it scared the shit out of you, it would get programmed in. Maybe its the smell of surprise shit that is encoded?

  3. Simon Valentine | Dec 2, 2013 at 7:55 pm |

    good to know totally rational fears of inexistent creatures are well founded in patrilinear ancestry. however shall i maintain oblivion without it… and don’t say mara!

  4. kowalityjesus | Dec 2, 2013 at 8:52 pm |

    Epigenetics is amazing. It was previously thought that a zygote is conceived with a clean genome, free from epigenetic tags accumulated through piRNA as a reaction to the environment. However, recent scientific discoveries prove that environmental effects can actually be seen across generations, a la Lamarck, through male and females gametes made-to-order. Even with such a confounding number of variables, any study of this ‘having evolved to evolve’ will yield fascinating results.

  5. rhetorics_killer | Dec 3, 2013 at 12:56 am |

    This seem to go well with the ‘genetically acquired ancestral traits’. Could explain to me why I feel constantly wrapped in father’s fears..

  6. Liam_McGonagle | Dec 3, 2013 at 10:08 am |

    Quote: “. . . sperm can carry information. . .”

    Dude, have you ever talked, face-to-face with an ENTIRE LIVING PERSON? They may have SOME information, but for the most part they’re useless and dumber than sh*t.

    If your argument is that sperm is the single most intelligent part of the human male anatomy, I might be forced to agree. But if you’re betting the farm on the quality of info you get from it I can only wish you luck.

  7. erte4wt4etrg | Dec 3, 2013 at 11:09 am |

    Duh, sins of the father

  8. teachpeace | Dec 3, 2013 at 12:33 pm |


  9. doodahman | Dec 3, 2013 at 1:12 pm |

    A lot of conclusion on the basis of a tiny bit of data. The conclusion is only as good as the comprehensiveness of the experimenters’ imagination.

    • Simon Valentine | Dec 3, 2013 at 1:19 pm |

      mass spectrometry as the new gladiators’ weaponry, LHC as the new Colosseum … a closed ecological cycle of information … inbreeding … radical speciation routines … offset modular cycle degeneration … “can’t you just give it to me all at once” said no physicist ever, pretending it was wise to say so, ignorant to the fact that it’s quite simply a failure to be a physicist. what myriad hydra i have left is an illusion.

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