Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Intergenerational transmission of emotional trauma.

Interesting work from Debiec and Sullivan on how conditioned fear learning in a parent is transmitted to children:
Despite clinical evidence that specific fear is transmitted across generations, we have little understanding of mechanisms. Here, we model social transmission of mother-to-infant fear in rodents. We show that maternal fear responses to a conditioned fear odor are sufficient to induce robust fear learning throughout infancy, with robust retention. Assessment of mechanism showed that maternal fear expression increases pups’ stress hormone corticosterone and amygdala activation to induce this cue-specific fear learning. Suppressing pups’ amygdala or preventing pups from mounting a stress response blocked this fear learning. Specific fears may thus be transferred across generations through maternal emotional communication and infant’s associative learning mechanisms. Elucidating the mechanisms of this transmission may inform the development of novel therapeutic and preventive approaches.

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