Can Memories be Genetic?

For this month’s blog post I found a video on Facebook about something called “genetic memory.” This caught my eye because we have talked a lot about memory this semester. This video described genetic memory as memories, particularly from traumatic or stressful events, that are passed down through our DNA. This seemed very intriguing to me because, based on what we learned about how memories are formed and encoded, I’m not sure when or how this would occur.

Despite that, assuming that genetic memory is real, this video claims that it could explain some phenomena that previously have had no explanation. Because these genetic memories are typically linked to traumatic and stressful events, this video claims that they could explain phobias and help treat anxiety. The video also claims that instincts are a form of genetic memory, which would make sense if they are actually real.

The video bases the information it presents off of previous research done on rats that found that, when one generation of rats was placed in a confusing maze, the next generation of rats did better. These findings have been replicated with other rodents as well. If this can be found in rodents, why couldn’t it be found in humans, too?

The video also suggests that these findings could also explain why some people seem to have a “natural gift” for some things, such as artists or musicians. However, this doesn’t seem to fit with the fact that earlier the video proposed that these memories were due to a traumatic or stressful memory. It would be interesting if things like musical or artistic memories could be passed down through the generations, though.

Despite how interesting this video was, I’m still stuck on the question of when in the encoding process this would take place. At some point, the encoded memory would have to leave a lasting impression on the DNA and physically change it, which at the moment I’m not really buying. I think more research should be done on this to determine how it may happen and to rule out the possibility that maybe the rats are just getting smarter. If you are interested in watching the video, it was called “Memories Can Pass Between Generations” from Today I Read- Season 6.

Do we share memories with the cavemen?

2 thoughts on “Can Memories be Genetic?

  1. csulliv3

    This is a really interesting concept! I never would have though of connecting memories with genetics. You usually think of only way a memory would get passed down is through stories. Thinking about it now it makes me think of adaptations and how species evolve to overcome challenges. Obviously no physical changes with genetic memory but it could be another type of “survival” tactic. Very interesting topic, I’d be interested to see if they would be able to examine DNA and be able to really tell if there is part of the genetics in the DNA that is connected to memory.

  2. mhowell3

    When I first read the title of this blog post, it peaked my interest because I was thinking of memories that could possibly be passed on from generation to generation. I found this fascinating and somehow unrealistic. When you talked about instincts being a type of genetic memory it made me think for a minute. I thought about how we do technically get our genetics from our family members. This factor brought me closer to believing in this Genetic memory Theory. But then when you mentioned the rats, I was skeptic again. I was skeptic because if one generation of rats were placed in a maze and they were confused to the point where they had trouble getting out and then the next generation of rats did better than how come that isn’t just considered natural selection. Probably not because natural selection takes years to be done. So maybe it is genetic memory. The video that you watched seems to more be talking about how skills are passed down genetically, especially when you brought up how the video said artists and musicians with a natural gift is explained through genetic memory. Overall, interesting video and perspective.


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