New York University Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Navigation Skip to Sub Navigation

NYU Neuroscientists Receive Grant to Study How Fear is Passed From Generation to Generation

January 18, 2011
118

New York University neuroscientists have received a grant from National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSD) to examine how fears are passed from generation to generation.

The researchers, Jacek Debiec and Regina Sullivan, who both hold appointments at NYU’s Center for Neural Science and the NYU Child Study Center, received the grant under NARSD’s Young Investigator Award Program, which  provides support for the most promising young scientists conducting neurobiological research.

Researchers have found that parental traumatic experiences may have a profound impact on their child’s development and mental health. Because humans and other mammalian species depend on parental care for long periods of time after birth, infants’ ability to respond to their caregivers’ emotional signals is critical for survival. In fact, infants use parental emotional expressions to regulate their own behavior. As a result, by watching a parent being anxious in response to particular threats, a baby may learn to respond to these threats in a fearful way.

Existing research has found that babies are especially sensitive to parental negative emotions.  For that reason, children of parents who suffered emotional trauma would be particularly vulnerable to a parent’s anxious behavior in response to cues reminding them of the trauma. For example, numerous studies demonstrate that the offspring of war-trauma survivors may express anxiety in response to cues recalling their parents’ trauma.

However, the transmission of fear experience across generations, although well documented by clinical studies, has not received much interest in the field of developmental neurobiology. For instance, little is known about neural networks underlying the transfer of learned fear across generations.

Under the NARSD grant, Debiec and Sullivan, who is also a researcher at the Emotional Brain Institute, will study rats in an effort to understand the mother-to-infant transmitted learned fear behavior. Specifically, they will examine neural circuits and mechanisms underlying fear responses that are passed from mother to offspring.

“This research will give us a better understanding of brain networks involved in a transfer of fear across generations and thus will lead to a development of early therapeutic remedies,” Debiec explains.

This Press Release is in the following Topics:
Arts and Science, Research, Sponsored Awards, Faculty, Awards, School of Medicine

Type: Press Release

Press Contact: James Devitt | (212) 998-6808

NYU Neuroscientists Receive Grant to Study How Fear is Passed From Generation to Generation

NYU neuroscientists have received a grant from National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSD) to examine how fears are passed from generation to generation. ©iStockPhoto.com/Sheryl Yazolino Griffin


Search News



NYU In the News

Entrepreneurship Lab Opens at NYU

Crain’s New York Business covered the opening of the Mark and Debra Leslie Entrepreneurial eLab, which will be the headquarters for NYU’s Entrepreneurial Institute and all of the University’s programs aimed at promoting innovation and startups.

A Globalizer for N.Y.U. in Abu Dhabi

The New York Times profiled Bill Bragin who will become the first executive artistic director of NYU Abu Dhabi’s new performing arts center.

Think Tank to Ponder a Future for Ballet

The New York Times profiled Jennifer Homans, the director of NYU’s new Center for Ballet and the Arts.

The Brilliant Ten: Jonathan Viventi Builds Devices That Decode Thoughts

Popular Science named Assistant Bioengineering Professor Jonathan Viventi as one of its “brilliant ten” for his research into brain implants that could one day halt epileptic episodes:

Living and Leaving the Dream: Adrian Cardenas’ Journey from the Major Leagues to College

The New York Times ran a feature on Adrian Cardenas, a former major league baseball player who is now studying philosophy and creating writing at NYU.

NYU Footer