The Epigenetic Legacy of Trauma

The evening of November 9th, 1938, began with typical fall solemnity for many Jews living across Germany: closing up their shops and businesses, returning home from school, and preparing family suppers. It would end with terror, as mobs ransacked storefronts, assaulted Jews on the street, and set fire to their homes. That terrible night would be known to history by the glittering debris of shattered windows lining the streets: “Kristallnacht.”

Kristallnacht, and the subsequent atrocities of Germany’s holocaust against the Jews, changed the world. Modernity had to forever acknowledge a surprising and abhorrent crime. Societies would undergo lasting changes, attempting to prevent such crimes, and the victims themselves, sadly, would suffer long-lasting impacts to their psyche.Continue reading

The Smell of the Good Ol Days Knowing Neurons Cover

The Smell of the Good Ol’ Days

The innumerable ways in which our parents contribute to our physical and mental identities are as complex as they are fascinating.  From the genetic information they share with us to their efforts to mold our values and social lives, it is clear that we owe much of “who we are” to our parents.  But a new study in Nature Neuroscience reveals that our grandparents may also influence us – even before we are born!  Researchers Brian Dias and Kerry Ressler of Emory University showed that an animal’s experience could have substantial impacts on the neuroanatomy and behavioral sensitivity of its offspring in at least two subsequent generations.Continue reading

The Newest Cupid on the Block: Epigenetics

Genes are no different from individuals. Sometimes they behave in a simple, logical way. Other times, they are unpredictable and influenced by their surroundings. The central dogma (DNA to RNA to protein) describes a sequential two-step process that is very similar to the linear progression from school to college and then to work. But sometimes, things get in the way that might delay our journey from school to work or might take us off course altogether! Similarly, genes can also be influenced by intangible “external” factors. The science of epigenetics studies how the expression of genes can be influenced by factors other than changes in the DNA sequence itself.Continue reading