According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA. Jews whose great-grandparents were chased from their Russian shtetls; Chinese whose grandparents lived through the ravages of the Cultural Revolution; young immigrants from Africa whose parents survived massacres; adults of every ethnicity who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents — all carry with them more than just memories.
Why can’t your friend “just get over” her upbringing by an angry, distant mother? Why can’t she “just snap out of it”? The reason may well be due to methyl groups that were added in childhood to genes in her brain, thereby handcuffing her mood to feelings of fear and despair.
Like silt deposited on the cogs of a finely tuned machine after the seawater of a tsunami recedes, our experiences, and those of our forebears, are never gone, even if they have been forgotten. They become a part of us, a molecular residue holding fast to our genetic scaffolding. The DNA remains the same, but psychological and behavioral tendencies are inherited. You might have inherited not just your grandmother’s knobby knees, but also her predisposition toward depression caused by the neglect she suffered as a newborn.
Or not. If your grandmother was adopted by nurturing parents, you might be enjoying the boost she received thanks to their love and support. The mechanisms of behavioral epigenetics underlie not only deficits and weaknesses but strengths and resiliencies, too. And for those unlucky enough to descend from miserable or withholding grandparents, emerging drug treatments could reset not just mood, but the epigenetic changes themselves. Like grandmother’s vintage dress, you could wear it or have it altered. The genome has long been known as the blueprint of life, but the epigenome is life’s Etch A Sketch: Shake it hard enough, and you can wipe clean the family curse.
‘If you are willing to look at another person’s behavior toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time cease to react at all.
Experts at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan published a study in the Journal of Family Psychology which analyzed five decades of spanking research representing around 160,000 children. The study focused on “what most Americans would recognize as spanking, and not on potentially abusive behaviors,” researcher Elizabeth Gershoff said in a statement. Here’s what they found.
“Understanding how personality influences variation in shark behaviour – such as prey choice, habitat use and activity levels – is critical to better managing these top predators that play important ecological roles in marine ecosystems.”
Life in the city changes cognition, behavior and physiology of birds to their advantage.
Birds living in urban environments are smarter than birds from rural environments.
But, why do city birds have the edge over their country friends? They
adapted to their urban environments enabling them to exploit new
resources more favorably then their rural counterparts, say a team of
all-McGill University researchers.
“We found that not only
were birds from urbanized areas better at innovative problem-solving
tasks than bullfinches from rural environments, but that surprisingly
urban birds also had a better immunity than rural birds,” says
Jean-Nicolas Audet, a Ph.D student in the Department of Biology and
first author of the study published in the journal Behavioral Ecology.
“The town bird and the
country bird: problem solving and immunocompetence vary with
urbanization” by Jean-Nicolas Audet, Simon Ducatez and Louis Lefebvre in
Behavioral Ecology. Published online November 2 2015 doi:10.1093/beheco/arv201