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Mice Sperm Passes on Fears to Offspring

Update Date: Dec 02, 2013 02:59 PM EST

Mice can easily pass the danger alerts to their pups through sperms, a new study proves.

A lab mice that was trained to fear a particular odor was seen transferring the impulse to their yet to be born offsprings through a specific mechanism. The outcomes of the research point towards a prospect that animals tend to inherit memory of their ancestors and especially the traumatic parts.

“Knowing how the experiences of parents influence their descendants helps us to understand psychiatric disorders that may have a trans-generational basis, and possibly to design therapeutic strategies,” said senior author Kerry Ressler, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory School of Medicine in a press release.

Ressler and the first author of paper Brian Dias trained mice to became afraid of an odor. They introduced pairing exposure to the odor with a mild electric shock. Later they measured how it startled the animals in response to a loud noise at baseline.

During their study they found that the naive adult son of the sensitized mice startled more to exactly same odor that his parents had learned to fear.

“While the sequence of the gene encoding the receptor that responds to the odor is unchanged, the way that gene is regulated may be affected,” Ressler added. “There is some evidence that some of the generalized effects of diet and hormone changes, as well as trauma, can be transmitted epigenetically. The difference here is that the odor-sensitivity-learning process is affecting the nervous system – and apparently, reproductive cells too – in such a specific way.”

Though there are few things that researchers are still unsure about. Like if these effects were reversible and if it was only odors or mice can be trained to be afraid of particular sound too.

The developments are published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. 

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