How You Inherited Your Fears

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Whether it's physical features, food preferences, or anxieties and phobias, we often mirror the characteristics of our parents. It's basically the result of the "nurture" part of the "nature vs. nurture" equation. But, new research out of Emory University delves into the ways that anxiety can actually be passed down through our DNA — just like other inherited traits.

Researchers trained mice to fear a certain cherry-blossom-like scent. They then looked at the mice's sperm. Incredibly, the ones scared of the floral fragrance had produced sperm in which the DNA responsible for smell sensitivity was more active than normal.

The frightened mice's children and their grandchildren also exhibited an extreme sensitivity to the smell, despite never being trained to fear it.

This amazing discovery shows the multigenerational effect of phobias, anxieties, PTSD, and other disorders. Scientifically, this is known as "transgenerational epigenetic inheritance," which essentially means that your environment can affect your genetics in ways that can be passed to children. These findings may lead the way to a totally new understanding of some mental illnesses and could partially explain the rising rates of some disorders. (BBC)