The phenomenon has long been known in psychology: traumatic experiences can induce behavioural disorders that are passed down from one generation to the next. It is only recently that scientists have begun to understand the physiological processes underlying hereditary trauma. ”There are diseases such as bipolar disorder, that run in families but can’t be traced back to a particular gene”, explains Isabelle Mansuy, professor at ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich. With her research group at the Brain Research Institute of the University of Zurich, she has been studying the molecular processes involved in non-genetic inheritance of behavioural symptoms induced by traumatic experiences in early life.
Mansuy and her team have succeeded in identifying a key component of these processes: short RNA molecules. These RNAs are synthetized from genetic information (DNA) by enzymes that read specific sections of the DNA (genes) and use them as template to produce corresponding RNAs. Other enzymes then trim these RNAs into mature forms. Cells naturally contain a large number of different short RNA molecules called microRNAs. They have regulatory functions, such as controlling how many copies of a particular protein are made.
Small RNAs with a huge impact
The researchers studied the number and kind of microRNAs expressed by adult mice exposed to traumatic conditions in early life and compared them with non-traumatized mice. They discovered that traumatic stress alters the amount of several microRNAs in the blood, brain and sperm – while some microRNAs were produced in excess, others were lower than in the corresponding tissues or cells of control animals. These alterations resulted in misregulation of cellular processes normally controlled by these microRNAs.
After traumatic experiences, the mice behaved markedly differently: they partly lost their natural aversion to open spaces and bright light and had depressive-like behaviours. These behavioural symptoms were also transferred to the next generation via sperm, even though the offspring were not exposed to any traumatic stress themselves.
Even passed on to the third generation
The metabolism of the offspring of stressed mice was also impaired: their insulin and blood-sugar levels were lower than in the offspring of non-traumatized parents. “We were able to demonstrate for the first time that traumatic experiences affect metabolism in the long-term and that these changes are hereditary”, says Mansuy. The effects on metabolism and behaviour even persisted in the third generation.
“With the imbalance in microRNAs in sperm, we have discovered a key factor through which trauma can be passed on,” explains Mansuy. However, certain questions remain open, such as how the dysregulation in short RNAs comes about. “Most likely, it is part of a chain of events that begins with the body producing too much stress hormones.”
Importantly, acquired traits other than those induced by trauma could also be inherited through similar mechanisms, the researcher suspects. “The environment leaves traces on the brain, on organs and also on gametes. Through gametes, these traces can be passed to the next generation.”
Mansuy and her team are currently studying the role of short RNAs in trauma inheritance in humans. As they were also able to demonstrate the microRNAs imbalance in the blood of traumatized mice and their offspring, the scientists hope that their results may be useful to develop a blood test for diagnostics.
Trying to identify my motivations for keeping a personal blog feels like trying to catch fish in a river with blurred vision. I just can’t seem to figure out. Do I do it for the sake of other people? It can’t be that entirely, otherwise I’d put more effort into my blog. Do I do it to keep a record for future reference? There are a lot of things I don’t include on my blog that would seem to be worth remembering relative to things I blog about, so no.
And I’ve become very self conscious that everything I write about relates to something at which I succeed. I wanted to write about the honors convocation I just attended and how I felt like a zoo animal on display amongst the many zoo animal-esque award winners who had their activities, future plans and GPA’s read off to the crowd. To some of you, that is motivating, to others of you, merely interesting, and for another subset, you find it to be nothing but bragging. Now I feel confined about what I talk about. I don’t want to annoy people, but much of what I find interesting in my life deals with things at which I succeed. What’s the fun if I feel constrained? I think it’s tasteless to brag or talk of one’s accomplishments in public, but I have lots of thoughts about my successes. Tumblr is where I put those without connecting it to my “real” social identity insofar as I find such talk public tasteless. Does that make any sense? Just… ugh.
It’s frustrating. Why on earth do I tumble?
I’ve resolved to write my thoughts down privately when I have an urge to Tumble for the coming week. Of course, necessary to this experiment is that I not publish what I write in that week.
I wonder how much, if anything, I will write, and how it will feel.
I’m tellin’, y’all
If you really, really understand mechanisms, you don’t have to do practice problems.
I probably did only half a dozen practice problems before my last test and I got an A. I didn’t have enough time for practice problems.
And in the long run, comprehension is going to be what helps you out on the MCAT.
Comprehension. Comprehension. Comprehension.
As far as I can tell, it should be priority numero uno.
The college semester is like a marathon.
We’ve lost the pep we had at the starting line, and we’ve not yet seen the finish line on the horizon that would give us that last motivation to sprint to the end.
Students are slumping into class like sludge, I swear…
But peeps, keep going. We’re almost there.
I’ve done 8 college semesters. I promise, it will end. You have to make it worth the struggle.
You can just call me philosonista.
Undergraduate degrees aren’t a requirement to apply to medical school. They’re a standard, but they aren’t required. Any major is fine for pre-med as long as that major either contains the required courses or you take them in addition to your major.
Here’s the break down of requirements for applying to medical school:
— 2 semesters of general biology
— 2 semesters of general chemistry
— 2 semesters of organic chemistry
— 2 semesters of english
— 2 semesters of math
Additionally, there will be sections on the MCAT you will be taking devoted to Biochemistry I content, Introductory Sociology content and Introductory Psychology Content. For the sake of the MCAT, it would also be smart to know how to conduct research and experiments — including how to analyze that data, statistics, etc — and have a good background in anatomy and physiology.
But the most important part of choosing a major, to me, is picking one that will teach you how to think, analyze, solve problems and interpret. Without such an education, you will be unprepared for the MCAT and you won’t have the analytical skills necessary to be a doctor. Rest assured, all the majors you are considering would be great in that respect. Just stay away from majors that are largely memorization (i.e. Biology).
Another concern is maintaining a high GPA — one of the most important factors to medical school admissions. Astrophysics, I would imagine, would be very rigorous, and possibly hurt your GPA, even with the same amount of intelligence and effort required to get a much higher GPA in another major. Science majors, especially physics, math and engineering, are notorious as GPA-killers. Such majors are also incredibly time consuming, leaving little time for extra circulars — another sought after factor in applicants.
Do NOT let me deter you from a major in science. Just know what you’re in for, and if you’re GPA starts to slip below 3.5, reconsider your options. Otherwise, you will not be a competitive applicant.
Good luck, and make sure rateyourprofessors.com is your best friend in college. You don’t want to have the false impression that you suck at something when it’s really just the professor that sucks.
Thus far the pressure has done me well toward pushing me to do well. Though if it does become a problem come the MCAT, I would be certain to talk to him in hopes that such comforting messages would be conveyed. Though I’m quite sure he will. He’s nice. I just think he likes to make sure he squeezes all my potential out.
Yes, I hope it’s a combination! It would be rather depressing if college did nothing but pressure us to learn how to study better.
There’s something intangible — I don’t quite know — but after four years of college I do think my brain just works… better. But I’m also just better at studying, too.
I wish we could quantify these things, especially intelligence. Somehow I doubt IQ tests are measuring what they are supposed to.
Oh, you’re asking under the thought that the difficulty of introductory classes is in proportion to the prestige of the school?
I attend a state school in New York. That’s as much as detail as I would give away.
It’s what I can afford, though I could get into more “prestigious” colleges pretty easily. In fact, I went to a “prestigious” college last year, but it didn’t seem to live up to its name. This is an anecdote, but from what I’ve seen, rigor is not in line with prestige. Outliers, sure, but generally… I’d guess not.
ACCIDENTALLY USING THE WRONG BUFFER AT THE END OF A LONG PROTOCOL
Please no, please no. I have to design my own buffer and I am scared to ruin two weeks of work based on my novice attempts at chemistry. XD
Wow, man. Intro classes.
I got a 102 on the sociology midterm — the highest grade in the class. You know how I studied for that? An all nighter and that’s it. I’ve got a 100 average on the reading quizzes just from… well, reading the chapter and making flashcards of key point and definitions half an hour before class.
I currently have a 102 average, and if I keep up the trend with my reading quizzes, I’ll get another two points tacked on my whole grade.
I mean… Did I think intro classes were hard when I was a freshman? Were they actually harder for me to understand and I’ve gotten smarter, or am I just much better equipped at studying for them? I don’t remember intro classes well enough to know…
I’m just perplexed as to why I could barely give less of a shit about my Intro Sociology class but I have a 102. Have I actually gotten smarter?!?!?!
Opinions, anecdotes, anyone?
Nope. If you’re thinking I took a real MCAT and decided to not submit the score, I didn’t — it was just a Kaplan practice.
I didn’t grade it because I haven’t even taken Physics yet, and I chose to take it primarily as a way to know how I should be preparing, not an evaluation.
I was afraid I would be petrified by the score I got if I graded it. I don’t want to knock my confidence without having even taken Physics or without knowing what I was in for. I’m sensitive like that. When I get a test back I have to wait a few days to look at the grade. Let my nerves cool off.
When it comes to the MCAT, my nerves are especially in need of extended periods of cooling.
You ever get to the end of a course sequence just when you’ve reworked and tweeked your study method to perfection for said subject?
Yeah, that’s how orgo is going to feel.
At least my notes are always pretty?
I am so happy Tumblr has embraced the new Cosmos. The saturation of the show on Tumblr has been pretty high. Surprisingly, though, not much of it was for the pretty visuals of the show (Come’n, tumbs! What gives!?)
If my hope and prediction that Cosmos would be a hot thing in the younger crowds does not count as fulfilling the “well informed” category of the OP competition I entered, I don’t know what would.