Thursday, 7 May 2009

Instincts: Could they be memories or actions passed down

I have been carrying in my head for a while this possible explanation for instincts and how they're passed on. Thought I'd better note it down. The premise being that DNA is a code much like computer code and so the principles used in passing information between computers may be relevant. 

The idea revolves around the concept of serializing information which means converting it into a form which can be recorded in some kind of code. In computers this can save your settings for your favourite program or provide a simple url you can share with your friends. I expect that our bodies naturally have the ability to do this with memories and this is where we begin. 

I believe the brain stores memories in cells or such like in such a way that it could be serialized. If the body did this then it is also possible that it also has the ability to include this memory in other cells in the body. It seems natural to assume that our bodies have the tools to edit their own genetic material. If so it also makes sense that they could alter the genes in the genes of sperm and possibly egg cells . 

If a memory of a snake biting you or a muscle memory of how to hide yourself could help your off spring. Then it seems likely that we would have evolved capabilities to allow this method of information transfer. It would also explain why some people claim to have memories from times past that they couldn't have been part of.

Related
It turns out this idea isn't so far fetched. New research is appearing that demonstrates a real link between the environment an organism and its DNA, or these days its epigene. The idea is that epigenetic changes can occur in an orgamism that are passed on to its offspring.

Watching Professor Denis Noble give his lecture on Physiology and Evolution at about 28 minutes in he referenced Life at the interface between a dynamic environment and a fixed genome and explained how stroking a rat can marks its cells to predispose its offspring to that behaviour.

A quick google also unearthed Environmental programming of stress responses through DNA methylation: life at the interface between a dynamic environment and a fixed genome which concludes that 'structural modifications of the DNA can be established through environmental programming and that, in spite of the inherent stability of this epigenomic marker, it is dynamic and potentially reversible.'

The journal Nature recently showed that fearful memories haunt mouse descendants


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