What if…memories are passed through DNA?

Apparently it is true. Your genes could have been altered even before your mother was born.

In December of 2013, there was a flurry of media activity reporting on a study published in Nature Neuroscience. Richard Gray, Science Correspondent for The Telegraph, describes the essence of the study:

Researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, found that mice can pass on learned information about traumatic or stressful experiences–in this case a fear of the smell of cherry blossom–to subsequent generations. The results may help to explain why people suffer from seemingly irrational phobias–it may be based on the inherited experiences of their ancestors.

The findings provide evidence of “transgenerational epigenetic inheritance”—that the environment can affect an individual’s genetics, which can in turn be passed on. One of the researchers Dr Brian Dias told the BBC: “This might be one mechanism that descendants show imprints of their ancestor. There is absolutely no doubt that what happens to the sperm and egg will affect subsequent generations.”

Prof Marcus Pembrey, from University College London, said the findings were “highly relevant to phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders” and provided “compelling evidence” that a form of memory could be passed between generations. He commented: “It is high time public health researchers took human transgenerational responses seriously. I suspect we will not understand the rise in neuropsychiatric disorders or obesity, diabetes, and metabolic disruptions generally without taking a multigenerational approach.”

You’ll find another excellent article on this study at the Smithsonian.

That’s in mice. What about humans?

This one-minute video refers to a study of women pregnant during famine and how that affected their children. It shows that your genes could have been altered even before your mother was born.

In 2015, a study of holocaust survivors was published in Biological Psychiatry. A research team from New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital analyzed the genes of survivors and their children. As reported by Helen Thomson of The Guardian, this study is

…the clearest example in humans of the transmission of trauma to a child via what is called “epigenetic inheritance”—the idea that environmental influences such as smoking, diet and stress can affect the genes of your children and possibly even grandchildren.

And finally, from the folks at Minute Earth, here’s a summary of the weirdness of epigenetics.

Disrupting Old Patterns

A sidewalk disrupted

Being a person with eclectic interests and viewpoints, it’s always been challenging for me to decide what my focus is. What am I really about? What is my work?

It came to me recently that my work has always been about disrupting old patterns. Patterns of eating, patterns of belief, patterns of activity, patterns of thinking.

So I guess I now have an answer when people ask me the inevitable question, “What do you do?”

I’m a pattern disruptor. In that vein, here are a couple of disruptive videos… Continue reading

What we say matters.

There is energy and power in our words. People around us tune in.

Anyone who was paying attention in language class learned that words have two kinds of meaning. The obvious one is “denotation” which is the literal or primary meaning of a word, in contrast to the feelings or ideas that the word suggests. Those  ideas or feelings are the “connotation,” the subtle meaning of the word—the overtone, undertone, implication, nuance or suggestion invoked by the word.

Consider a couple health-related examples that illustrate these subtle differences. Continue reading

Security or Expansion?

Humans are wired to seek security.  It’s how we survived, individually and as a species. It’s in our genes.

Seeking security leads us to entrench in the familiar, which includes the way we do things and how we think. We become “set in our ways.” We forget how to venture out and explore. We develop a fixed mindset.

That’s the contracted state I found myself in a couple years ago. I had the security of familiarity. But I wasn’t very happy. Truly, I was bored with myself. Continue reading

What kept me going?

There have been parts of the last 15 years that were neither easy nor fun. People sometimes ask what kept me going. That is something I have wondered myself. I’ve distilled it down to innate optimism, a strong connection with my inner knowing, and an intense sense of purpose. I was born with all of them, and have consciously cultivated them over the years.

A healthy streak of optimism…

Optimism is hopefulness and confidence about the future. You might think of it in terms of the glass half empty/glass half full metaphor. When optimism becomes extreme, it falls off the edge into being Pollyannaish. Continue reading

Beyond Informed Choice

Eleanor Roosevelt on choice

Choice is our greatest power. It’s what allows us to use all our resources to live our best lives.  But the consumer culture trains us to make decisions by default rather than by conscious choice. Truth is, questioning the status quo and making conscious choices can seem daunting. Many of us are happy to let others decide because we don’t know how to make choices consciously.

Living by default

Continue reading

Making Marshmallows? Yes!

Homemade marshmallows

So there you have it. I decided in favour of tradition. I got out my recipe card and the 1950s candy thermometer that my aunt passed on to me. I went back to making marshmallows for Christmas.

Not without some thought, as you might have guessed. Last week I said I’d be thinking about it, considering that sugar is a primary ingredient in homemade marshmallows. So this post is about how my thinking got me from there to here. If you want the recipe, you’ll find it here. Continue reading