Keep your hands to yourself: Child abuse affects our genes

Monday, February 23, 2009

It doesn't sound nonsensical to say that what happens when we are younger stays with us the rest of our lives. But today, for the first time ever, scientists reveal that childhood abuse can affect our genes by altering the biology of our brains. Luckily these markers can be wiped clean in the next generation and the cycle can end. In this segment, John Hockenberry goes knee-deep into the brain with guest Michael Meaney, one of the lead researchers on the work, which appears online in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

For more, read the very scientifically written and deeply wonky article abstract, Epigenetic regulation of the glucocorticoid receptor in human brain associates with childhood abuse.

Have more questions? Michael Meaney is happy to answer your questions. Post here and he'll respond.

"The types of epigenetic marks that we're looking at are not necessarily going to be transmitted from parent to offspring, so you needn't be sitting around saying 'look, I've been damaged ergo my children will be damaged no matter how good a parent I am.'"
— Michael Meaney, co-director of the Sackler Program for Epigenetics and Psychobiology at McGill University, on how child abuse affects genes


Michael Meaney


Molly Webster

Comments [3]

Kate Selkirk

Forward to class.

Feb. 24 2009 12:50 PM

Michael, thanks for your wonderful research. I have a few questions. Question 1) What kind of child abuse are you referring to: physical, emotional, verbal? Question 2) Until what age would you consider our genes to be at risk for someone experiencing child abuse, or abuse if a teenager? Question 3) Are there any therapies or remedial actions survivors of child abuse can pursue to repair their genes?

Thanks again Michael and to John Hockenberry for this extremely important story and research.

Feb. 23 2009 08:11 PM

Bravo to both Michael and John for a fantastic interview this morning! Seldom does one hear a science piece where both the interviewer and interviewee are so effective at explaining and contextualizing a cutting-edge discovery. Keep up the great work!

Feb. 23 2009 11:39 AM

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