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Phobias could be passed through genes

4th December 2013

A Nature Neuroscience study has trained lab mice to avoid a particular smell. Scientists then observed the behaviour of subsequent generations.

DNAThe impulse of fear attached to the odour of cherry blossoms was visibly inherited by the offspring and their offspring, having never experienced the smell in their lives.

A team of US scientists from the Emory University School of Medicine have discovered the section of DNA responsible for sensitivity to the scent was made more active in the mice’s sperm.

The results suggest behaviour can be affected by events in previous generations which have been passed on through sperm.

Prof Marcus Pembrey, from University College London, said that a he suspects a "multigenerational approach" will be important for understanding "the rise in neuropsychiatric disorders or obesity, diabetes and metabolic disruptions".


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