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Does Crime Leave a Genetic Trace? 160

gallifreyan99 writes "Scientists have spent decades trying to understand and fix social problems like violence and alcoholism, usually focusing on the poor and disadvantaged. But now a small band of researchers is claiming that biology plays a vitally important role — because trauma can change you at a genetic level that gets passed on to kids, grandkids, and perhaps even beyond." Part of the research involved testing the effect of stress on the genetics of mice. A number of mice were subjected to stressful situations and then allowed to raise their children. The children, when later subjected to stress, were more vulnerable to it than normal mice (for example, they would stop struggling in a potentially fatal situation earlier than 'happy' mice). This was expected. What's interesting is that when those children were later bred with normal mice, and that third generation was raised by normal mice (so that parental neglect wasn't a factor), they still showed the same vulnerability to stress. A subsequent generation showed the same.
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Does Crime Leave a Genetic Trace?

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  • Lamarck Vindicated? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by man_ls ( 248470 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2014 @06:22PM (#46280341)

    Does this mean Lamarckian evolution is partially correct after all?

  • Curious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2014 @06:23PM (#46280347) Homepage

    I'd be curious to see how many generations will exhibit this characteristic, of course using the initial pre-stressed generation as the baseline for what normal behavior would be considered.

    I always find it interesting when science proves something from ancient verbally-passed records, particularly when it's something which couldn't possibly* be scientifically concluded as truth in ancient days. Specific to this case, I believe the Bible says something like "your sins will be visited upon your children and your children's children for seven generations" or some such thing. Ignoring the biblical propensity to refer to everything in 'sevens', it'd be interesting to see if there's correlation.

    * per our current understanding of ancients and their scientific capabilities

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18, 2014 @06:28PM (#46280371)

    The reasons should be plainly apparent:

    My family was in no way disadvantaged. My father came from a family of modest means, but he was raised in a comfortable home in the country that his father built himself.

    My father was a raging alcoholic, violently and sexually abusive to me, verbally abusive to my mother, sexually abusive to my sister.

    But he was a good provider. He was a career military officer who retired at thirty, and served honorably in vietnam.

    When I was a boy I was brutally bullied by my classmates. I don't know what I did to bring that on, but it was everything I could do to survive elementary school. Why didn't the teachers or the principal intervene when I was being beaten?

    The result now is that while I am not an alcoholic, I surely would be if I ever touched alcohol. That becomes plainly apparent to me if I ever do get drunk so I choose not to drink.

    I am fucked up beyond all repair. I've spent a lot of time in psychiatric hospitals.

    I have a degree and am a good coder, but it is very difficult to provide for myself. I do my best to do right by others, but I myself am poor and disadvantaged. If I can get a job at all I earn more than 100K, but it is very difficult for me to get a job that I can tolerate.

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2014 @06:32PM (#46280407) Journal

    Ehhhhh...I wouldn't go that far. Lamarkianism relies on a feedback mechanism to pump info back into genes, which is far more complicated that natural selection, where variation introduces info into genes, then the less-well-adapted genes survive less well and are replaced in subsequent generations by omission.

    This is probably more related to epigenetics, where certain chunks of DNA are coated to stop their effect, and this can be responsive to the environment as well as passed down to children.

    Also the exact causal relationships, if any, between stress, abdominal belly fat deposition (in the gut), and things like heart disease and insulin resistance, and even bacterial fauna population differences is also a hot area of research, and much of thatccan be passed on via non-DNA methods.

  • by IgnorantMotherFucker ( 3394481 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2014 @06:35PM (#46280433) Homepage
    It has a great deal of wisdom about human nature. That it is unscientific in origin doesn't make it false, or like your stopped clock analogy, only coincidentally true.
  • Doubtful (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DumbSwede ( 521261 ) <> on Tuesday February 18, 2014 @06:49PM (#46280537) Homepage Journal
    I will go on the record predicting this research will widely be discredited within the next 5 years. I’m not saying there is no epigenome, but why would it work in an apparent anti-Lemarkin fashion, let alone anti-Darwinian? The implication is that nobody gets bad-genes, just that genes get shunted aside for multiple generations due to changes in the epigenome.

    I think there is some huge motivation on the part of the research here to explain why certain segments of the population remain in a loop of poverty and violence. I think social factors can adequately explain the problems we see. Perhaps there is a genetic component as well to why some groups do better than others, but research of that kind routinely gets the authors in trouble. Here we can have a quasi -genetic predisposition explanation that does away with the shame of having bad genes and suggests that it is society’s fault for not preventing the stressors in earlier generations that lead current generations to underperform.

    What is a little strange is the implication that the changes to the epigenome stay permanently, of course only if they are negative changes.
  • by IgnorantMotherFucker ( 3394481 ) on Tuesday February 18, 2014 @06:49PM (#46280547) Homepage
    ... fertilization. I think it was the NYT that discussed this a week or two ago. A woman who carried a gene for a cruel genetic disease wanted to have children, but not to pass on the disease. So she opted for In Vitro Fertilization, with the fertilized zygotes being genetically tested. She has had I think two or three children from zygotes that tested negative. If everyone who carries her disease gene does this, than a rare but terrible scourge could be eliminated from the earth. Her father, for example, is doomed to die young and is already suffering. However I myself have Bipolar-Type Schizoaffective Disorder []. It is as yet unclear whether that is a unique disease or the, uh, "lucky" combination of Manic Depression and Schizophrenia. The cause of Schizophrenia is as yet unclear but is thought to be due to infectious disease of the brain. It may have other causes, as it is likely to be more than one disease, each of which causes the psychotic symptoms of delusions and hallucinations. Manic Depression is quite clearly genetic, due to studies in which twins were adopted out to different parents at birth. There is a strong correlation between whether one twin is Bipolar, and whether the other is. That can't be due to environmental factors, or how one is raised. Manic depression is arguably a horrible disease. I myself have attempted suicide in a serious way a number of times, the last time in 2010 when I wrapped my car around a concrete highway overpass post at a hundred miles per hour. But dammit I forgot to unbuckle my seatbelt. It was a sudden decision, the end it all, you see. However Manic Depressives are well-documented to be uncommonly creative. Besides coding, I have a BA in Physics, while I did not complete my doctorate I stymied my fellow students, even the faculty, with my insight into the nature of reality when was in grad school. I draw, paint, sculpt, compose for and play the piano, sing and play drums. I invent all manner of things. I could have lots of patents if I could be bothered to ever file for them. Kay Redfield Jamison is a noted authority on manic depression, and a Johns Hopkins University psychology professor. She speculates that Manic Depression has persisted through evolution despite its obvious disadvantages because "it brings new ideas into the social consciousness". Hollowell and Ratey propose a similar theory for why Attention Deficit Disorder has persisted through evolution as well. Their theory is that people with ADHD are able to connect otherwise unrelated ideas in a way that the brains of normal people would be incapable of, thereby synthesizing novel ideas. For example despite being bent on suicide the whole time I worked at Medior, I invented then implemented a novel lossless bitmapped graphics compression algorithm and format, that enabled the company to stuff more assets on its multimedia CD-ROMs. Now suppose you chose In Vitro Fertilization because you or your mate had spent your whole lives contemplating suicide. You have a choice of a normal zygote, or one that will quite obviously bear a child who will be Bipolar as an adult. Which one do you choose? Were manic depression eliminated from the species, what would our society be like a thousand years from now? Jamison's new ideas wouldn't be getting contributed to the social consciousness nearly as much anymore.

Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success. -- Christopher Lascl