• Question: Recently there was an experiment on mice which was working to prove that memory may have been passed down to the next generation (the parent mice had been taught to be scared of an object and their childrens children who had never seen that object were still frightened of it when they were introduced to it for the first time. Is it possible that memories have affected our genes as they are the only things passed on to the offspring?

    Asked by jamesroebuck to Samantha, Matt, Karolina, David, Anita on 28 Jan 2014.
    • Photo: Anita Hall

      Anita Hall answered on 28 Jan 2014:


      I am not sure exactly which experiment you are talking about; it sounds interesting. Perhaps it refers to the growing research area of ‘epigenetics’ which is about how the activity of genes can be altered by chemical modification and this change in activity (rather than a change in the DNA sequence itself) can be inherited. I would suggest that experiences could alter the anxiety state of a mother which, via her hormones and neuronal circuits, would lead to epigenetic changes that could be inherited by her children and perhaps grandchildren.