Below you can find the full transcript of our engaging Q&A session yesterday on lifelong cognitive fitness, “mental capitalism”, and more, with Alvaro Fernandez, co-author of The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness, moderated by Harry Moody, Director of Academic Affairs at AARP.
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?
We all have heard “Use It or Lose It”. Now, what is “It”? how does “it” work? why is “it” our best (and too often unrecognized) friend?
The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) has just released a user-friendly publication titled Neuroscience Core Concepts, aimed at helping educators and the general public learn more about the brain.
Description: “Neuroscience Core Concepts offer fundamental principles that one should know about the brain and nervous system, the most complex living structure known in the universe. They are a practical resource about:
- - How your brain works and how it is formed.
- - How it guides you through the changes in life.
- - Why it is important to increase understanding of the brain.”
You will enjoy reading the web page explaining in detail 8 Neuroscience Core Concepts:
1| The brain is the body’s most complex organ.
2| Neurons communicate using both electrical and chemical signals. [Read more…] about Neuroscience Core Concepts: What is “It” in Use It or Lose It?