Did You Know: Your Ancestors’ Memories Are With You

This is another installment in a series of brief posts about facts I find interesting and/or surprising. The intent is to keep these posts brief but to provide links to detailed references for those interested in researching the topic further.

Our ancestors' traumatic experiences are encoded in our DNA!

Our ancestors’ traumatic experiences are encoded in our DNA!

As crazy as it sounds, recent research has revealed that our ancestors’ frightful or traumatic experiences are encoded within us in the form of a sort of “genetic memory.”

Recently-published findings in Nature Neuroscience presented a truly shocking revelation: when we experience a traumatic event, our DNA is permanently changed.  What’s more, our offspring born after the event will carry that DNA modification giving them potential phobias and/or anxiety as a result.  This sort of thing is referred to as “transgenerational epigenetic inheritance” or, in lay terms, means that our environment can change our genetics and that those changes can be passed down.

spiderThis research explains my unnatural arachnophobia (fear of spiders)…I can simply blame an ancestor of mine who must have had a less-than-friendly encounter with an arachnid.

This begs a question for all of us: how did our traumatic experiences from our childhood and adolescence play a role in our own children’s psychological predispositions?


2 thoughts on “Did You Know: Your Ancestors’ Memories Are With You

    • Jeannie, I agree. This means that our genetics can actually carry the impact of memories if not the memories themselves. I think future research in this area will tell likely expose some huge surprises to us all.

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