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View Diary: Sex, Witchcraft and the War on Women (80 comments)

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  •  Is it in our DNA? (9+ / 0-)

    Scientists have recently been investigating how DNA is  permanently altered by trauma.

    When I heard that I immediately thought of the viseral, physical reaction many of us have to stories of witches being burned at the stake ... almost like a past life memory, certainly more than simple empathy. Perhaps for those of us of Celtic or northern European heritage, it really is locked in our DNA.

    "Let us not look back to the past with anger, nor towards the future with fear, but look around with awareness." James Thurber

    by annan on Sat Mar 17, 2012 at 02:04:08 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  Environmental signals (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      qofdisks, annan

      affect the way DNA is regulated, i.e. the degree to which it is expressed. This regulation happens through chemical changes to the DNA (methylation) and to chemical changes to the protein the DNA is packaged in (chromatin). This chemical information, which regulates DNA expression, is called epigenetic information.

      Mostly epigenetic information is "remembered" in cell lines. E.g. it is how a B lymphocyte "remembers" that it is a B lymphocyte and not, say, a pancreatic cell. But somehow, and it is still not well understood how, some epigenetic information can be passed from mother to child. Information about habitat quality, nutrition, the effects of trauma (which might correspond to information about predation pressure in a prehuman setting), etc. affect not only the epigenome of the mother but also that of the child. In mice, it has been shown that epigenetic memory can persist for three generations. See Lick Your Rats for a cute learning module about all this.

      I'm not sure about epigenetic memory lasting for centuries... It seems to be a way for our genome to code multiple, distinct adaptive suites for different environments, and to "call up" one of those suites for a life in a particular environment. These different environments would have been environments that humans and prehumans evolved in for long periods of time. However, there is evidence that maternal trauma, stress, and poor nutrition, versus low stress and good nutrition, does affect her offspring.

    •  It has made us stronger. (1+ / 0-)
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      "Scientists have recently been investigating how DNA is  permanently altered by trauma."

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