Inherited Phobias


You know when you want to blame your parents for your worst traits but then you try to concede to the fact that you are your own person and you make your own decisions? Well, that might not be totally true.

Obviously your inherited DNA has some instructions that are not easily overwritten but it goes beyond your hair color, your laugh, and your musical inclinations. A recent study has found new evidence that those pesky and inexplicable phobias that keep spooking you finally have a cause. You inherited someone else’s memory.

Simply put, your great great grandfather might have had a traumatic situation, which in turn actually chemically altered his DNA to carry a helpful warning for his future offspring and along down the line. Where we thought teaching verbal lessons was the only way to prepare to children for the world, biology has been quietly telling you its own story all these years.

Since it’s likely that a lot of accidents occur in similar fashion (like falling down a hill, getting bit by a snake) it makes sense that your body would try to warn as many people as possible of the potential misfortune they face in those scenarios. Some of that seems like common sense, but in the case of some more unique phobias the fear does not actually seem logical.

What isn’t so helpful about that experience is the crushing anxiety that pummels some of us when what we’re afraid of enters our day. Claustrophobia is a great warning signal not to get yourself locked in a box, but if you feel it in the elevator at work or when you get a shirt stuck over your head after the gym, the panic that can set in is not too productive.

The most recent study on the manner was done at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. It was done on mice, but the researchers don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t explain some of the irrational human aversions as well. To test their theory they trained the mice to fear the lovely scent of cherry blossoms by shocking them when they smelled it. (Sad face.) They then urged the mice have babies and lo and behold the new offspring were born with an aversion to the scent of cherry blossoms, without ever having been exposed to it otherwise. The aversion continued with the following mouse generation as well, as they continued to show a change in brain structure and chemical response to the prior cherry blossom/painful shock situation. The people of science want to continue the research on humans, but no word of exactly what that process would entail.

In the meantime feel free to speak of this plausible truth to your relatives this holiday season but be gentle with the finger pointing.

+ Leave a Reply