Fear takes many forms, from the creepy crawly to the massive unfamiliar landscapes of the world. Many people can easily cite the origin of their phobia, for example: the traumatic childhood memory of falling from a tree could be the basis for a lifelong fear of heights. For some people, however, phobias cannot be explained with any marked experience. When a person has never been negatively affected by the thing or situation they’re so afraid of, the phobia seems irrational, but new research has uncovered a genetic link that may be responsible for these seemingly unexplainable fears.
A study conducted in Atlanta at the Emory University School of Medicine found that mice can pass on learned information about stressful experiences to offspring that were not even conceived at the time of trauma. Researchers were able to instill a fear of cherry blossoms into mice by shocking them every time they smelled the flowers. Seems like a pretty jerk move, but I guess science is pain, or something. Basically, what this research means, is that our irrational phobias might be the result of inherited experiences from our ancestors, maybe. Because the study used mice and not humans, though, it’s a really big maybe.
The experts behind this research say there still needs to be tons more testing done before they can extrapolate the hypothesis onto people. For now, what we have is some mildly interesting information regarding the psyche of mice. Not sure why scientists think that justifies their decision to forcibly inflict pain onto animals, but apparently they just can’t just deal with the fact that sometimes we are afraid of things for no logical reason. I don’t particularly care for dolls, even as a child I would cry if someone gave me a doll; they just give me the heebie-jeebies, but I’m more interested in not being around things that terrify me rather than figuring out why I am terrified of things. I certainly do not feel compelled to take my conundrum out on helpless little mice.
Thanks to science, we are now one step closer to diagnosing post-traumatic stress disorder in rodents. Science should probably work on solving more pressing issues before it starts electrocuting mice. Those little guys were just strolling along in the confines of whatever home-like structure the lab provides them, minding their own business, trying to get a whiff of a lovely cherry blossom, when all of a sudden ZAP! No wonder they passed their fears onto their babies, they were trying to save their young from the suffering they endured! Turn out, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that pain is bad. Back to the drawing board you go, dear science.