Eric Jensen alerted me to a research study published in the February 4th Journal of Neuroscience — Transgenerational Rescue of a Genetic Defect in Long-Term Potentiation and Memory Formation by Juvenile Enrichment. We both had the same initial WOW! feeling that we had experienced when we first read about the discovery of mirror neurons a decade+ ago.
The study’s findings seemed to suggest that acquired characteristics can be genetically transmitted, a Lamarckinan belief that had long been discarded by biologists. This seemed improbable, so we decided to check out what the scientific community thought. It’s the kind of research that educators certainly need to understand because the potential educational implications are profound, no matter how this particular study sorts out.
I’ve thus appended the following information below: (1) the abstract and reference of the original sttudy, (2) a link to a non-technical report in the current issue of New Scientist, (3) a link to a non- technical explanation of the research in Medical News Today, and (4) a link to a recent extended non-technical New Scientist article on the issue of non-genetic inheritance. Eric will post his commentary on the research in the March edition of his Brighter Brain Bulletin newsletter.
To put it simply: The researchers studied long-term potentiation (LTP), in which longer and more robust synaptic activation occurs. LTP is the basic mechanism for learning and memory formation.
Juvenile mice placed into an enriched environment (EE) developed enhanced LTP capabilities that they later transmitted to their own offspring during embryogenesis (rather than through later maternal instruction), and these effects persisted even when the offspring weren’t in an EE. The study concluded that a stimulating juvenile environment can thus influence the composition of signaling networks that influence synaptic plasticity and memory formation in the enriched mouse, and also in its future offspring.
The problem with this research appears to be over whether the transmitted effects occurred via genetic changes or through something else in the mother’s uterine environment. A female’s eggs develop early in life to be distributed later, so it’s improbable that a female’s juvenile experiences would alter the DNA in her eggs. A more probable explanation may be that any changes in the mother’s brain that occur via an EE are represented as currently ill- understood signaling molecules that pass through the placental barrier into the embryonic brain.
For educators, this research simply adds to our own strong belief that long-term benefits accrue from a stimulating early environment that encourages curiosity and exploration. The research builds on [Read more…] about A Love affair Across Generations: A Lamarckian Reincarnation?