Virginian Hughes reports at National Geographic that researchers at Emory have discovered that mice inherit the memory of certain smells from parents: They recognize smells “even when the offspring have never experienced that smell before,andeven when theyve never met their father. Whats more,theirchildrenare born with the same specific memory.”

Hughes describes the research, published in Nature Neuroscience, in some detail: “The researchers made mice afraid of a fruity odor, called acetophenone,by pairing it with a mild shock to the foot. In a study published a few years ago, Ressler had shown that this type of fear learning is specific: Mice trained to fear one particular smell show an increased startle to that odor but not others.”

The mice then mated. . . .

and the researchers found that “he offspring (known as the F1 generation) show an increased startle tothe fruity smell even when they have never encountered the smell before, and thus have no obvious reason to be sensitive to it. And their reaction is specific: They do not startle to another odor called propanol. Craziest of all,theiroffspring (the F2 generation) show the same increased sensitivity to acetophenone.”

Hughes closes with a quote from Anne Ferguson-Smith, a Cambridge geneticist: The study “potentially adds to the growing list of compelling models telling us thatsomething is going onthat facilitates transmission of environmentally induced traits.

Can you say Morphic Resonance?

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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