[Paleopsych] It pays to lick the rich
HowlBloom at aol.com
HowlBloom at aol.com
Wed Jul 28 13:51:41 UTC 2004
Can the balance of nerve growth factor and of glucorticoids be one of the
stress balancers in the brain, the ones I’ve been hunting down, the one that can
cave in in chronic fatigue syndrome?
Different strokes produce different folks—provided those folks are rats.
A loving mother, a mother who pets and licks you, makes you confident. A
skittish mother who hesitates to touch you preordains you to be easily spooked.
Hugs—or the lack of them—change the way genes function. Those genes boost or
block nerve growth factor and the way your brain handles stress hormones.
This reset of genes resets something grander—personality.
Pulling out to look at the slightly larger picture, if your mother was under
lots of threat and was too nervous to cuddle you, you may well be born into
the high-risk world that made her so distraught. In a world filled with danger,
it may make sense to be fearful and hide. On the other hand, if your mom
felt rosy, confident, and on top of her world, she may have been cruising along
in an atmosphere of privilege, abundance, and safety. If you’re born into her
sphere of rank and guaranteed plenty, confident exploration may be a luxury
you can well afford.
Earlier research once convinced me that the rich do much to explore the
strange on our behalf. They play status games by competing to own things that are
rare and strange. As a consequence, they act as antennae, feeding novelty and
fresh possibilities into our brains. The status symbols of the rich are
often goods from exotic cultures or from mine shafts half way round the world,
shafts in diamond or titanium tunnels it takes a huge investment to excavate. Or
the rich go for ancient masterpieces and archaelogical treasures from digs in
obscure places and from layers left by the people of even more obscure
periods of time. The rich, with their smug self-confidence bring riches like the
rarities at the Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum, the Louvre, the
Getty, and the Tate into the mainstream.
It’s a drag to praise the rich for anything. They have so much more money
than you and me that envy’s more the order of the day. But apparently if their
moms—or nannies—lick them regularly, they can boldly buy where no man has
bought before, and in the process add to our middle-class lives. Howard
Retrieved July 28, 2004, from the World Wide Web
Science News Online Week of July 17, 2004; Vol. 166, No. 3 Groomed DNA
Handles Threats: Mothering styles alter rats' stress responses Bruce Bower A
rodent mother can't scold or praise her offspring, but her approach to mothering
lays a genetic foundation for her pups' life-long response to threats,
neuroscientists have found. Rats raised by moms who frequently lick and groom them
undergo permanent changes in patterns of gene activity, leading to a penchant
for exploratory behavior in stressful situations, say Michael J. Meaney and his
colleagues at McGill University in Montreal. In contrast, rats raised with
little maternal contact end up with gene activity that fosters fearfulness in
the face of stress, the researchers report in the August Nature Neuroscience.
>From an evolutionary perspective, having both behaviors in a population is
beneficial. "Early experience can have lifelong consequences on behavior, and
[this new report] reveals the genetic scaffolding of this phenomenon to an
unprecedented extent," remarks neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky of Stanford
University. Meaney's group previously showed that female rats express either a high- or
a low-contact mothering style. Animals raised with lots of physical contact
later react to stress by secreting small amounts of glucocorticoids, a class of
stress hormones. These rats also possess large numbers of glucocorticoid
receptors in an inner-brain structure called the hippocampus. Rats raised with
little physical contact secrete large amounts of glucocorticoids when stressed
and possess relatively few receptors for these hormones. In another study,
Meaney's group found that pups raised by doting mothers had high concentrations of
a substance called nerve growth factor–inducible protein A (NGFI-A) in their
hippocampi. It attaches to genes for glucocorticoid receptors, boosting those
genes' capacity to regulate the hormone's secretion. The researchers' new
report shows how NGFI-A offers stress-fighting aid only to pampered rats. On the
first day after birth, in all the rat pups, regulatory proteins inactivate
NGFI-A's binding location on glucocorticoid-receptor genes. Over the next week,
in rats raised with high-contact mothering, the concentration of these
regulatory proteins decreases sufficiently to enable NGFI-A to do its job of boosting
production of hormone receptors. These rats retain this genetic trait for
life, the investigators say. In contrast, the regulatory proteins in unpampered
rats stay high, and the abundance of hormone receptors remains low. Moreover,
only high-contact animals displayed another biochemical change, according to
Meaney's team. The change decreased the binding of histones to DNA, thereby
letting NGFI-A attach and boost the activity of glucocorticoid-receptor genes.
The researchers also tested a drug that blocks the binding of histones to DNA.
When they injected it into adult rats that had been raised by low-contact
mothers, the scientists found that the animals responded to stress much as
pampered animals do. These behaviors were reflected on the molecular level, in
patterns of expression of stress hormones and receptors. Whether differing styles
by human mothers induce similar molecular changes in their offspring remains an
open question. If you have a comment on this article that you would like
considered for publication in Science News, send it to editors at sciencenews.org.
Please include your name and location. To subscribe to Science News (print),
go to https://www.kable.com/pub/scnw/ subServices.asp. To sign up for the free
weekly e-LETTER from Science News, go to
http://www.sciencenews.org/pages/subscribe_form.asp. References: Weaver, I.C.G. . . . and M.J. Meaney. In press.
Epigenetic programming by maternal behavior. Nature Neuroscience. Abstract
available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nn1276. Sources: Michael J. Meaney
McGill Program for the Study of Behaviour, Genes and Environment McGill University
3655 Sir William Osler Promenade Montréal, QC H3G 1Y6 Canada Robert Sapolsky
Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences Stanford University School
of Medicine Gilbert Laboratory, MC 5020 Stanford, CA 94305-5020
http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20040717/fob3.asp From Science News, Vol. 166, No. 3,
July 17, 2004, p. 36. Copyright (c) 2004 Science Service. All rights
Author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of
History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From The Big Bang to the
Visiting Scholar-Graduate Psychology Department, New York University; Faculty
Member, The Graduate Institute
Founder: International Paleopsychology Project; founding board member: Epic
of Evolution Society; founding board member, The Darwin Project; founder: The
Big Bang Tango Media Lab; member: New York Academy of Sciences, American
Association for the Advancement of Science, American Psychological Society, Academy
of Political Science, Human Behavior and Evolution Society, International
Society for Human Ethology; advisory board member: Youthactivism.org; executive
editor -- New Paradigm book series.
For information on The International Paleopsychology Project, see:
for two chapters from
The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History,
For information on Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang
to the 21st Century, see www.howardbloom.net
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