January 11th, 2014| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0


The other day researchers at Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta demonstrated something odd. Apparently the smell of fear (or is it the fear of smell—you decide!) can be inherited genetically and be passed down for two generations.

Dr. Kerry Ressler—professor of psychiatry, and recently elected to the prestigious National Institute of Medicine—and his colleagues worked with mice to prove this strange inheritance. Mice were taught to fear the smell of cherry blossom by associating this scent with a mild electric shock. It wasn’t long before these critters reacted in fear when they were just exposed to the smell, sans shock.

But what was amazing was that the mice’s offspring that had never been given the cherry+shock combo reacted with fear when exposed to the smell. Ressler & Co. concluded that the trait must have been transmitted genetically. The cherry+shock-trained daddy mice had never met their babies, so it couldn’t have been a learned behavior. The scientists think that the fear of certain smells triggers some heritable changes in sperm that result in some imprinting in the brains of the next two generations. Indeed, this was the case even with mice were conceived with in vitro fertilization techniques, clearly ruling out any mimicking of their parents. And, no, these little ones weren’t unusually fearful of all kinds of stuff—just those things their forbears were scared of. In fact, not only were they able to react to very tiny amounts of the odor, they had larger areas in their brain dedicated to these smells.

And this inherited behavior was passed on for at least two generations! So “ancestral experience before conception” influences behaviors of animals. Fascinating!

Does this work with fears of other things, not just smells? Does it work with other emotions, say, joy and delight at certain experiences? Do these mice studies translate to humans? If it does, it could completely alter the way we conceive of behavior.

Dr. Ressler declared: “Knowing how the experiences of parents influence their descendants helps us to understand psychiatric disorders that may have a trans-generational basis, and possibly to design therapeutic strategies.” He was probably extrapolating a bit too far, a bit too soon, but still ….

What about fear of the right things, i.e., valid fear? Especially the best kind of “fear”—the fear of the Lord—the reverential awe with which mankind ought to regard its creator. No, this is not terror-stricken panic, but it is certainly more than deference. It clearly also involves a deep trust that leads to obedience and submission to the will of the Almighty.

Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
Proverbs 3:7

As Abraham prepared to obey the divine test to sacrifice his son, Isaac, the LORD’s angel stopped him:

“Now I know that you fear God,
since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
Genesis 2:12

“By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD,
“because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you ….”
Genesis 22:16–17

He [God] will bless those who fear the LORD.
Psalm 115:13

I wonder if this “fear of the Lord” can be inherited.

But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children ….
Psalm 103:17

“Children’s children”? Hmm ….

In any case,

Let all the earth fear the LORD;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
Psalm 33:8

Fear the Lord … and pass it on!

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