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article imageCan fear be inherited?

By Tim Sandle     Dec 7, 2013 in Science
Mice appear to pass certain fears onto their offspring, according to a new research study. Trials so far on mice suggest that certain smells associated with frightening events can be passed on to successive generations.
According to a study published in Nature Neuroscience mice trained to fear the smell of a cherry-and-almond-scented chemical called acetophenone passed their anxieties onto their pup.
Compared to control mice, mice born to acetophenone-fearing fathers shuddered more in response to the scent the very first time they smelled it. Perhaps even more interesting, Nature reports, the same effect was seen for a third generation of mice.
The research team claim that the effect may be mediated by epigenetic changes. This is an interesting (and bold) statement, for which further research will be required to support or to disprove. Certainly the findings are not supported by Columbia University molecular biologist Timothy Bestor. Bestor told National Geographic: "I don’t see any way by which that gene could be directly regulated by methylation."
Whichever way, the research report has opened up and interesting debate. The research paper is titled "Parental olfactory experience influences behavior and neural structure in subsequent generations."
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