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Undoing Trauma's Effects

Researchers have found that good events can reverse the epigenetic effects of traumatic ones, Scientific American's 60-Second Science podcast reports.

Recently, investigators have reported that traumatic effects can have ramifications for the descendants of those that experienced trauma as epigenetic changes wrought by stress are passed on. But, Isabelle Mansuy from the University of Zurich tells Scientific American that those epigenetic changes can be undone.

She and her colleagues separated newborn male mice and their mothers, which caused them both traumatic stress. The male mice as well as their own male offspring exhibited symptoms of trauma, but when symptomatic mice had positive experiences, their behavior as well as that of their offspring changed, Scientific American says.

"So this reverses the symptoms and it also reverses the biological reasons, the biological cause for the symptoms in the progeny which are the epigenetic marks," Mansuy says. "Epigenetic marks can be corrected in sperm cells by this positive experience."

Scientific American adds that the researchers hope that this also holds true for people who have had traumatic experiences.