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Grandma's Experiences Leave Epigenetic Mark on Your Genes | DiscoverMagazine.com
Your ancestors' lousy childhoods or excellent adventures might change your personality, bequeathing anxiety or resilience by altering the epigenetic expressions of genes in the brain.

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.

eartharchives.org
Hognose snake’s dramatic fake death (video)
Playing dead is a common defense behavior in several animal species. When threatened, some animals will stay still to avoid predation.

Disclaimer: The person who recorded the video stated that it was done to demonstrate the behavior to school children who visited the education facility. Please do not harass animals for viral videos.

This particular juvenile seems to be more theatrical than other hognoses we’ve ever seen. Thoughts?

Here’s what getting spanked as a kid did to your personality, according to science

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.

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Working from home makes us happier and better at our jobs

Reading this in your office? Do yourself a favor and hightail it back home. According to a new study conducted by survey and research company TINYpulse, we’d probably all be more efficient, and definitely more comfortable, if we all worked from home. The only area where office-bound employees outscored remote employees.

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eartharchives.org
Study shows sharks have personalities
For the first time a study led by researchers at Macquarie University has observed the presence of individual personality differences in Port Jackson sharks.

“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.”

Country Birds Lack the Smarts of City Birds

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

Bullfinches in Barbados. Credit: Louis Lefebvre