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Fear can be inherited

Parents’ and even grandparents’ experiences echo in offspring

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1:05pm, December 1, 2013

SCENT OF FEAR  Mice can inherit their parents’ and grandparents’ fear of the scent of orange blossoms, a new study finds.

Along with eye color, height and dimples, parents’ fears can pass down to children, scientists report December 1 in Nature Neuroscience. The results, from experiments with mice, suggest how fallout from a person’s traumatic experiences might ripple through generations.

Mouse parents learned to associate the scent of orange blossoms with a shock. Their children and their grandchildren startled in response to the scent — a sign of fear — even though they had never smelled it before. Offspring also had more neurons that detect the orange blossom scent than mice whose parents weren’t exposed to the scent.

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