Stressed? It Can Affect Not Only Your Kids, But Your Grandkids, Too

Now this is depressing.

A new study says that you can affect not only your kids with any stress you may be feeling, but your grandkids, too.

Exposing female adolescent rats to stress before they even become pregnant leads to changes in behavior and the hormonal system not only among their children but also among their grandchildren when they reach adulthood; this according to a new study from the University of Haifa.

 he researchers also found a gene related to stress which expresses itself differently in the brain of individual offspring from the moment they are born. According to the researchers, this finding suggests that it is not maternal care which influences variations in offspring, regarding stress, according to newswise.com.

As in previous studies, the researchers exposed the female rats, when still adolescents, to minor stress involving changes in temperature and routine for a week. Their direct offspring grew up without any stress-inducing intervention, as did their grandchildren.

The third generation of rats (the grandchildren) underwent different tests that measure anxiety-like behavior and the acquisition of fear. In addition, for the second and third generation offspring the levels of the stress gene expression in the brain as well as the levels of Corticosterone were also measured.The findings indicate that the effects of stress on the first-generation mother rat continue to influence her grandchildren on all three levels: behavioral, hormonal, and the manifestation of the gene.

On the behavioral level, the third generation descendants (mainly females) were, perhaps surprisingly, more “daring,” spent more time in the “frightening” parts of the maze, and exhibited less anxious behavior in various tests when compared with the offspring of rats that were not exposed to stress.

In addition, the offspring (both male and female) of the rats exposed to stress demonstrated a more rapid acquisition of fear relative to the descendants of the control group.“It’s possible to try and explain the results as showing that the rats whose grandmother was exposed to stress displayed more adaptive behavior to their surroundings. Wherever greater curiosity was needed to improve their chances of survival, they displayed curiosity, but the moment they were exposed to a frightening event, they learned quickly and reacted more extremely to this event," researchers say.

"They learned quickly and reacted more extremely to this event. In any case, it is clearly impossible to talk in a dichotomous fashion about the positive or negative impact of the stress their grandmother was exposed to. This is a complex effect that depends on the context of the situation,” say the researchers. They also found that behavioral differences among the first generation of rats which were exposed to trauma were different from those found among the second generation.

Bottom line?  The effect of trauma is transmitted between generations, but it affects each generation differently.




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