An article in the Daily Telegraph of 16th February is titled: ‘Phobias may be memories passed down in genes from ancestors’.
‘Memories can be passed down to later generations through genetic switches that allow offspring to inherit the experience of their ancestors, according to new research that may explain how phobias can develop.’
Researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, found that mice can pass on fear of traumatic or stressful experiences to subsequent generations. The details of the study are reported in Nature Neorscience.
To quote the Daily Telegraph: Dr Brian Dias, from the department of psychiatry at Emory University, said: “We have begun to explore an underappreciated influence on adult behaviour – 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 intergenerational transmission of risk for neuropsychiatric disorders such as phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Professor Marcus Pembrey, a paediatric geneticist at University College London, said the work provided “compelling evidence” for the biological transmission of memory, and “It is high time public health researchers took human transgenerational responses seriously.”
If this is the case with humans and even with mice, then surely it could have a lot to do with some of the seemingly irrational phobias we come across in dogs.
Referring specifically to dogs, Jennifer Cattet Ph.D writes about this recent study, suggesting the findings give yet more reasons to watch for behavioral traits when selecting dogs for breeding.
She concludes, “Given the impact that anxieties and fear can have on any dog’s life, shouldn’t we apply some of the same principles used for service dogs to all dogs? Through careful selection, good socialization and ongoing safe exposure to the world, we can truly make a difference in how well our dogs can fit into our human lifestyle”.
Here is the story of a dog I have been helping whose fear of bangs is irrational so far as anyone can tell.
Here is my main website with many more stories of the dogs I have been to and helped: www.dogidog.co.uk