This article is Part 6 of the 7-part series “The Ever-Adapting Brain”!
“DNA is controlled by signals from outside the cell, including the energetic messages emanating from our positive and negative thoughts.” – Dr. Bruce Lipton, cell biologist
Two scientists walked into a bar. It wasn’t a joke. In 1992, molecular biologist Moshe Szyf and neurobiologist Michael Meaney, both from McGill University, met a a corner pizza bar in Madrid. Their research, that approached genetics from a molecular and a behavioral point of view respectively, had intersected, bringing them to the same conclusion. Both scientists believed that certain types of stress responses, childhood experiences, learning, and immune responses stay with us from generation to generation – without ever changing our DNA. Such propositions turned the central dogma of DNA upside down. Moshe and Michael shared their research and brainstormed.
Moshe Szyf had unraveled some of the molecular complexities of heterochomatin, the combination of histone proteins and DNA called chromosomes. Michael Meany had discovered that a heightened stress response in rats, caused by maternal neglect in early childhood, could be inherited – with no changes on the DNA. If the stress response was inherited, and if that response was passed along by molecules that were not DNA, the likely suspects were histone proteins that thoroughly integrated with DNA. But how could behavioral information first be encoded? and then inherited? with no changes to DNA?