The study in memory-deficient mice, published in the February 4 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, was led by Larry Feig, PhD, professor of biochemistry at Tufts University School of Medicine and member of the biochemistry and neuroscience programs at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University.
The researchers studied the brain function of pre-adolescent mice with a genetically-created defect in memory. When these young mice were enriched by exposure to a stimulating environment – including novel objects, opportunities for social interaction and voluntary exercise – for two weeks, the memory defect was reversed. The work showed that this enhancement was remarkably long-lasting because it was passed on to the offspring even though the offspring had the same genetic mutation and were never exposed to an enriched environment.
Previous research has shown that environmental exposures during pregnancy can affect offspring. "A striking feature of this study is that enrichment took place during pre-adolescence, months before the mice were even fertile, yet the effect reached into the next generation," said Feig.
"The offsprings' improved memory was not the result of better nurturing by mothers who were enriched when they were young. When the offspring were raised by non-enriched foster mothers, the offspring maintained the beneficial effect," said co-author Junko Arai, PhD, postdoctoral associate in Feig's laboratory.
"The effect lasted until adolescence, when it waned, suggesting that this process is designed specifically to aid the young brain," continued Shaomin Li, PhD, MD, co-author, former postdoctoral associate in Feig's laboratory, now at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
"This example of 'inheritance of acquired characters,' was first proposed by Lamarck in the early 1800s. However, it is incompatible with classical Mendelian genetics, which states that we inherit qualities from our parents through specific DNA sequences they inherited from their parents. We now refer to this type of inheritance as epigenetics, which involves environmentally-induced changes in the structure of DNA and the chromosomes in which DNA resides that are passed on to offspring," said Feig.
Previous research by Feig and his team showed that a relatively brief exposure to an enriched environment in both normal and memory-deficient mice unlocks an otherwise latent biochemical control mechanism that enhances a cellular process in nerve cells called long-term potentiation (LTP), which is known to be involved in learning and memory. This enhancement was detected in pre-adolescent mice but not in adult mice, reflecting the brain's higher plasticity in the young.
Feig concluded that the transgenerational inheritance of the effect of an enriched environment may be a mechanism that has evolved to protect one's offspring from deleterious effects of sensory deprivation, which may be particularly potent in the young and exacerbated in the learning disabled.
Junko Arai and Shaomin Li, first authors, contributed equally to the paper. Dean M. Hartley, PhD, of Rush University Medical Center is also an author.
Siobhan Gallagher | EurekAlert!
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy