Can You Inherit Memories From Your Ancestors?

The science of epigenetics suggests we can pass on trauma – but trust and compassion too.

Hannah Critchlow in The Guardian: Since the sequencing of the human genome in 2003, genetics has become one of the key frameworks for how we all think about ourselves. From fretting about our health to debating how schools can accommodate non-neurotypical pupils, we reach for the idea that genes deliver answers to intimate questions about people’s outcomes and identities.

Recent research backs this up, showing that complex traits such as temperament, longevity, resilience to mental ill-health and even ideological leanings are all, to some extent, “hardwired”. Environment matters too for these qualities, of course. Our education and life experiences interact with genetic factors to create a fantastically complex matrix of influence.

But what if the question of genetic inheritance were even more nuanced? What if the old polarised debate about the competing influences of nature and nurture was due a 21st-century upgrade?

Scientists working in the emerging field of epigenetics have discovered the mechanism that allows lived experience and acquired knowledge to be passed on within one generation, by altering the shape of a particular gene. This means that an individual’s life experience doesn’t die with them but endures in genetic form. The impact of the starvation your Dutch grandmother suffered during the second world war, for example, or the trauma inflicted on your grandfather when he fled his home as a refugee, might go on to shape your parents’ brains, their behaviours and eventually yours.

More here.