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!
The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences