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Our memories are passed on to our children

Our memories are passed on to our childrenIsn’t it intriguing to know that what we are currently doing to stimulate our kids may actually have long-term effects that is carried over even to the next generation?

A joint research by neuroscience researchers at the Rush University Medical Center and Tufts University School of Medicine investigated the link between what a mother did as a child and her children’s memory skills. They performed the investigation in pre-adolescent laboratory mice who were genetically engineered to have a defective memory. The researchers observed that the memory defect was reversed by giving the young animals an enriched environment for two weeks, i.e. enhanced social interaction, exposure to stimulatory objects, and voluntary exercise. What is even more amazing is the fact that the offspring of these memory-defective mice also inherited the defective gene but showed no overt signs of memory defect, indicating that what the mothers have learned during their childhood has been passed on to the next generation. The stimulation effect was evident even when the offspring were raised by non-stimulated “foster mothers.”

Previous studies have reported that stimulatory exposure of a pregnant mouse has a positive effect on the offspring. This study, however, suggests that an enriched environment during the pre-adolescent stage, long before the pregnancy occurred, works just as well.

The researchers called this effect as part of epigenetics or “inheritance of acquired characters” which involved environmentally induced changes in the genetic material that is passed on to the next generation. However, the effects seem to wear off faster in the offspring and are not carried over to subsequent generations.

I find this study fascinating even though it has been observed only in mice. It could mean that the influence of my childhood environment can still probably be felt by my children. In the same way, whatever my children are experiencing now, will eventually be passed on to their children – my grandchildren. Now, with this knowledge, the term “investing in future generations” actually takes on a new meaning.

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