Parents’ Emotional Trauma May Change Their Children’s Biology. Studies In Mice Show How

Isabelle Mansuy began in 2001 by designing a mouse intervention that re-creates some aspects of childhood trauma. She separates mouse mothers from their pups at unpredictable intervals and further disrupts parenting by confining the mothers in tubes or dropping them in water, both stressful experiences for mice. When the mothers return to the cage and their pups, they’re frantic and distracted. They often ignore the pups, compounding the stress of the separation on their offspring. Mansuy says the mice’s suffering has a purpose. “We’re applying a paradigm that is inspired by human conditions,” she says. “We’re doing it to gain understanding for better child health.” Unsurprisingly, the pups of stressed mothers displayed altered behavior as adults. But to Mansuy’s surprise, the behavioral changes persisted in the offspring’s offspring.

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