TEDx talk: Epigenetics

Video with

The study of epigenetics has changed how we look at the effect that our genetic inheritance has on our physical and mental health, as well as on that of our children and grandchildren.

Research done by Moshe Szyf, a pioneer in this field, suggests that biochemical signals that pass from mothers to offspring prepare the child for the environmental and social conditions of their world.

This is done not by altering the sequence of DNA, which is fixed and very hard to change. Instead, epigenetic modifications, or “tags,” help determine which genes are active and when. This is crucial to normal development, but these tags also affect how organisms interact with their environment.

In this TEDx talk, Szyf describes research done in rats and monkeys which shows that the conditions of an animal’s early life may lead to certain epigenetic modifications. These changes can have dramatic effects on the animal’s later physical and mental health.

Other studies show that the same processes occur in people. Research looking at children born to mothers who were pregnant during a natural disaster found that stress experienced by the mothers reprogrammed the genes of their child through epigenetic tags.

Szyf points out that epigenetic modifications are not good or bad. They are simply a genetic way of preparing a child for their future environment, whether that means living in a country with low light during the winter, dealing with scarce food or facing high stress.

Although the epigenetic preparations that we inherit from our mothers are often useful, they can sometimes be maladaptive. For example, tags that were supposed to prepare us for famine may encourage us to eat high-calorie fast foods and cause our body to store it as fat. This can lead to obesity, cardiovascular problems and metabolic disease.

Epigenetics also opens up the door to overcoming these adaptations. Other research described by Szyf shows that it may be possible to reprogram the epigenetic layer, to wipe away the tags that contribute to metabolic disease, addiction or mental health problems. So while our DNA sequence is largely fixed, we have some freedom to alter how it functions in our bodies.

Small Island Nations & Climate Change Models

Article by

An international team of climate change experts says global models which are used to help nations prepare for the impact of climate change are overlooking small island nations

The Light Eaters: Zoë Schlanger

Article by

At the edges of plant consciousness and the more-than-human in Schlanger new book

New Paradigm of Animal Consciousness

Article by

Far more animals than previously thought likely have consciousness, top scientists say in a new declaration — including fish, lobsters and octopus

Indigenous Knowledge & Climate Crisis: Nonette Royo

Article by

Robust Indigenous and local land rights are vital for managing forests, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, preserving biodiversity, and improving livelihoods

Indigenous Solar Eclipse Stories From Across Turtle Island

Article by

From rodents of unusual size to flaming arrows, communities across North America share solar eclipse traditions

Chasing Cicadas

Article by

Amid the cacophony of a cicada emergence, Anisa George reflects on her choice to leave the Bahá’í faith and its promise of a new civilization

The Possibilities of Regeneration

Video with

Origins of regenerative agriculture, offering a story that is both new and ancient in its roots

Ghost Pipe, Illness, and Mycoheterotrophy

Article by

No matter how sick I feel, I’m still afire with a need to do something for my living

Support SAND with a Donation

Science and Nonduality is a nonprofit organization. Your donation goes towards the development of our vision and the growth of our community.
Thank you for your support!