Our primal ancestors and close relatives, the primates, are born with innate fears of snakes to help them survive in the wilderness and increase their chances of survival. Now, if one ascribes to the theory of evolution, would it be plausible to believe that our natural fears of such reptilian species are genetically passed down to us? To the common man, yes, it might be far out and close to insane, but with the help of present research studies on the subject we can bring this theory closer to reality.
The innate fear of snakes to a primate helps them to survive in their natural world. When/If homosapiens evolved from early primates, perhaps we as their descendants were passed on the genetic inheritance of being fearful of snakes and reptiles. Obviously, a newly born baby may not be able to recognize a snake, arachnid, or a steep fall as a threat, but in the early stages of the child’s cognitive development, they become naturally fearful of these dangers that have been fatal to humans throughout history. This could be a result of a subtle change in human DNA due to moments of true terror experience throughout our ancestry.
In a study held at Emory University, scientists trained mice to fear the odor of cherry blossoms by introducing a light electric shock when the smell was presented. The offspring of the original rats, and even the grandchildren, showed a sense of fear when the smell of cherry blossoms were introduced to their environment. Scientists looked at the DNA of rats of a later generation and found physical changes as well as an imprint on the portion of DNA that registers odors.
“Our results allow us to appreciate how the experiences of a parent, before even conceiving offspring, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations. Such a phenomenon may contribute to the etiology and potential inter-generational transmission of risk for neuropsychiatric disorders such as phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.” – Dr. Brian Dias of the Emory University department of psychiatry.
The research demonstrating that fear is passed down genetically shows the significance of parents’ memories, experiences, outlook, and well being contribute to the quality of their offspring in regards to mental health and their cognitive experience. There could be much more information passed down via DNA from parent to offspring that we simply have not picked up on yet. “It is high time public health researchers took human trans-generational responses seriously,” Prof Marcus Pembrey, from University College London. “I suspect we will not understand the rise in neuropsychiatric disorders or obesity, diabetes, and metabolic disruptions generally without taking a multi generational approach.”
The only way we as a society can know and understand how our brain and consciousness work is to look at the big picture and see what influences we have inherited that contribute to a mental disability we are born with or that could lead/put one at risk of some kind of psychiatric illness. Now that we know DNA can pass on memories and certain innate experiences we can begin to take a step forward to modifying our DNA. Is it possible that the cosmic spirituality people come in tune with is a result of tapping into parts of our DNA that have remained beyond our epoch? With further research, scientific analysis, and testing, it is conceivable that we may one day be able to safely manipulate our DNA and develop a better understanding for the ‘collective unconscious’ within each of us.
Dias, Brian G., and Kerry J. Ressler. “Parental Olfactory Experience Influences Behavior and Neural Structure in Subsequent Generations.” Nature.com. Nature Neuroscience, n.d. Web.
Gallagher, James. “‘Memories’ Pass between Generations – BBC News.” BBC.com. BBC News, n.d. Web. 23 July 2015.
Gray, Richard. “Phobias May Be Memories Passed down in Genes from Ancestors.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, n.d. Web. 23 July 2015.