May 13, 2006
THE SELFISH GENE IS NO MATCH FOR A JEWISH MOTHER
A Mother's Touch (Victor Limjoco, Discover, May 12th, 2006)
Be grateful to your mom. Not only did she carry you around for nine months, but now new research suggests that her mothering style may have triggered genes that help determine your parenting style.
Columbia University neurobiologist Frances Champagne says that previous research across species showed that maternal behaviors are passed down from mother to daughter.
"So if your mother held you a lot, you will hold your infants a lot," Champagne says.
But she wanted to know whether mothering tendencies are passed on through genetics or experience. Her team studied mother rats that spent time licking and grooming their babies, and others that didn't.
As she wrote in the journal "Endocrinology," without enough licking and grooming, female rats had certain genes turn off, preventing the production of certain hormones key to future mothering behaviors, including estrogen and oxytocin, also known as the love hormone.
Licked rats had a higher production of those hormones, which, in turn, affected behavior when these baby rats became mothers themselves. Champagne says that this combination, genes and environment, pass maternal behaviors from generation to generation.
Random mutation, natural selection and chicken soup? Now, that’s our idea of a modern synthesis. Over to you, Mr. Dawkins.