Stress Can Change Our Genes

In my last blog post reviewing Marc Lewis’ book, Memoirs of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines his Former Life on Drugs, I indicated that our brains, with all their neuronal and chemical intricacy, appear to respond to a higher authority than just chemistry. There seems to be a “self” or a “soul” which may alter the direction of an addiction–or other behavior. That is good news for all of us. It means that when we are depressed, anxious, or even addicted, there is an “I” that can come to our rescue. That is the message I have been presenting throughout my website, starting many years ago before there were blogs. I indicated at the end of that post that there was a second piece of evidence to support my proposition. Let me digress for a moment to set the groundwork for what I am about to share with you. Lemark’s Theory of Use and Disuse                   When I took high school biology (a very long time ago) we learned that there was a scientist called Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in 1809 who preceded Charles Darwin. Lamarck had a theory of “use and disuse” which said that characteristics that animals use get somehow incorporated into their genes and can therefore be passed down to their offspring, while unused characteristics get genetically dropped. The theory was rejected and we students laughed at such quaint ideas. Well, we can stop laughing. Researchers across the country and throughout the world are studying the field of epigenetics. This includes the effects of what are called epigenetic markers. This is the science of noting which genes are...
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