While we all have the same DNA sequence, what differs is the gene expression in every individual. This difference arises from slight modifications of the DNA. The study of these biological changes is known as epigenetics, and it is of crucial importance to understand human behavior.
The different tissues, muscles, etc. develop as different genes are turned on and off to translate limited genetic data at a morphological site in the continuity of the human form and development. These are called epigenetic changes, and can often occur due to the specific environment in which a baby grows, leading to certain behavioral characteristics as adults. For example, epigenetic changes can occur in the fetus as a result of what the mother eats, and based on stress levels during pregnancy.
Animal studies, mainly carried out on mammals like rats, proved that an emotional environment early on in pregnancy or after childbirth can lead to epigenetic changes for a lifetime. Studies show that those baby rats that are groomed and licked a lot by the mother, tend to have less anxiety and stress as adults.
In humans, the cortisol receptor in the fetus’ brain receives these signals and the changes take place accordingly. Those children who suffer from abuse or experienced prenatal stress, tend to have similar epigenetic changes.
However, if babies are groomed well, kept in a loving environment, and close to the warmth of parents, they grow up to be less anxious and stressed. One way of ensuring that you keep your baby close to you at all times is by purchasing the best baby carriers to carry around your baby wherever you go.
Once these genetic changes take place, they can become hereditary, and might be passed on as well. Ongoing research on epigenetics, however, shows that epigenetic changes are not always permanent. They can be temporary, and not necessarily genetically passed on. .
The Molecular Basis of Epigenetics:
The field of epigenetics can be divided into two important areas of study – DNA methylation and histone modification. These two determine whether the DNA can produce RNA in the body, and whether the DNA can be read or not.
The Agouti Mice:
Experiments conducted on the Agouti mice show the effects of epigenetic changes. In one experiment, two genetically identical mice were taken up for study. When both were pregnant, one was fed supplements that were rich in the diet like folic acid, while the other wasn’t. .
The result was a stark difference in the way the babies physically developed, as the former turned out to be smaller in size and with brown fur, while the latter turned out to be obese and have issues like diabetes. This further stresses the importance of a good prenatal environment.
Thus, spending time with your baby, and playing with it can have a great positive impact as it grows up into an adult. Parents can use baby bouncers to bond with babies and fill their childhood with happy, playful memories.