The biological memory of a stressful event can be passed on to offspring

Postnatal stress causes molecular changes in the brains of mice exposed to this stress, and these changes can be passed on to their offspring.

A research team has just demonstrated that molecular changes that occur in the brain following postnatal stress have lasting effects on the propensity to anxiety and sensitivity to pain in mice that have experienced this stress. Surprisingly, these changes are also observed in the offspring of these mice, even though they have not been exposed to this stress. The details of this study, co-led by two researchers from the CERVO research centre, Marco Battaglia, from the University of Toronto, and Yves De Koninck, from the Faculty of Medicine at Université Laval, have just been published in the journal Science Advances.

To carry out this demonstration, the researchers used two groups of mice. The first, the control group, was made up of mice that had been left in their mother's care at birth. In the second group, mice from the same litter spent their first day of life with their mother. For the next three days, they were successively entrusted to three different "adoptive mothers". From their fifth day of life, they were reunited with their biological mother.

"We observed no difference between the two groups in terms of stress indicators or the care given to the babies by the biological or adoptive mothers," points out Professor De Koninck. As far as we can tell, the stress experienced by the mice was mild. Nonetheless, they retained lasting repercussions."

Read the rest of this recent article by  Jean Hamann in ULaval Nouvelles

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