24 February 2009

NeoLamarckianism and Child Abuse

I have a School Friend, whom I quote below, who researches Neo-Lamarckian ideas which I find quite interesting: (especially since Lamarck is so put upon in public education; rightly so in most respects.) In that vane, the Times had an article today on the effect of early childhood abuse on your biology and it, in my opinion, falls into this NeoLamarchian category.
A quick example of a neolamarckian idea: the act of breastfeeding imparts the mother's immune system on her child and that immune system is a trait that mom acquired by interaction with her environment. In other, better, words "parents acquire immunological resistance to certain pathogens, and then transmit the resistance to their children via breastfeeding." There are other examples concerning bacteria mutation and the remarkable way "viruses infect gametes with useful characters [which] cause[s] offspring to have those new traits."
The Times article sites evidence recently published in the Journal Nature Neuroscience by Dr. Michael Meaney, working out of McGill University in Montreal; the study was on human suicide, the thrust of which being that gene expression changes in abused children, making them more likely to commit suicide (as well as suffer from other mental disorders).
From the Abstract: "We examined epigenetic differences in a neuron-specific glucocorticoid receptor (NR3C1) promoter between postmortem hippocampus obtained from suicide victims with a history of childhood abuse and those from either suicide victims with no childhood abuse or controls.... These findings translate previous results from rat to humans and suggest a common effect of parental care on the epigenetic regulation of hippocampal glucocorticoid receptor expression."
The moral, be a good parent: apparently there are books on the subject now: (actually, I think that Alfie Kohn is the person to go to in this last respect; or at least, with respect to early childhood education.)