Ancestral memories can be passed down our DNA, according to new findings

Ancestral memories can be passed down our DNA, according to new findings

Memories may be passed down to future generations through DNA, according to a new study by US scientists.

Researchers from Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta said that the emotions and experiences of our mother and fathers are passed down through future generations and inherited biologically through chemical changes that occur in DNA.

This may help to explain how phobias, mental health issues and learned behaviour can influence us, regardless of our environment or upbringing.

Dr Brian Dias, from the department of psychiatry at Emory University, said:  “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,” he told the Telegraph. He added: “Such a phenomenon may contribute to the etiology and potential intergenerational transmission of risk for neuropsychiatric disorders such as phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

During tests, they learned that that mice can pass on learned information about traumatic or stressful experiences to subsequent generations.

Professor Marcus Pembrey, a paediatric geneticist at University College London, said the work provided ‘compelling evidence’ for the biological transmission of memory.

He added: “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 multigenerational approach.”

The scientists said that they wish to explore this issue further to understand more about this phenomenon.

The case is not that far removed from the findings of Dr Miklos Toth, from Weill Cornell Medical College, who found that chemokines carried in a mother’s milk caused changes in the brains of their offspring, affecting their memory in later life.

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