Male mice exposed to chronic social stress have anxious female offspring

August 22, 2012

A study in mice conducted by researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) suggests that a woman's risk of anxiety and dysfunctional social behavior may depend on the experiences of her parents, particularly fathers, when they were young. The study, published online in Biological Psychiatry, suggests that stress caused by chronic social instability during youth contributes to epigenetic changes in sperm cells that can lead to psychiatric disorders in female offspring across multiple generations.

"The long-term can be pernicious. We first found that adolescent mice exposed to chronic social instability, where the cage composition of mice is constantly changing, exhibited anxious behavior and poor social interactions through adulthood. These changes were especially prominent in ," said first author Lorena Saavedra-Rodríguez, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the Larry Feig laboratory at Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM).

The researchers then studied the offspring of these previously-stressed mice and observed that again female, but not male, offspring exhibited elevated anxiety and poor social interactions. Notably, even though the stressed males did not express any of these altered behaviors, they passed on these behaviors to their female offspring after being mated to non-stressed females. Moreover, the male offspring passed on these behaviors to yet another generation of female offspring.

"We are presently searching for biochemical changes in the sperm of stressed fathers that could account for this newly appreciated form of inheritance" said senior author Larry A. Feig, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry at Tufts University School of Medicine and member of the biochemistry and neuroscience program faculties at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University. "Hopefully, this work will stimulate efforts to determine whether similar phenomena occur in humans."

Explore further: Effects of prenatal stress passed across generations in mice

More information: Saavedra-Rodríguez L, Feig LA. Biological Psychiatry. "Chronic Social Instability Induces Anxiety and Defective Social Interactions Across Generations." Available online August 20, 2012. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.06.035

Related Stories

Effects of prenatal stress passed across generations in mice

August 17, 2011
Sons of male mice exposed to prenatal stress are more sensitive to stress as adults, according to a study in the August 17 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. These findings suggest experiences in the womb can lead to individual ...

Depressed fathers pass depression to offspring but the cause is mostly behavioral, not genetic, or epigenetic

November 17, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- One of the first studies to examine, in animals, how depression in fathers may impact their offspring will be presented by the study's researchers from the University at Buffalo and Mt. Sinai School of ...

Stressed dad = depressed children? Investigating the paternal transmission of stress

August 31, 2011
Does Dad's stress affect his unborn children? According to the results of a new study in Elsevier's Biological Psychiatry, it seems the answer may be "yes, but it's complicated".

BPA exposure effects may last for generations

June 15, 2012
Exposure to low doses of Bisphenol A (BPA) during gestation had immediate and long-lasting, trans-generational effects on the brain and social behaviors in mice, according to a recent study accepted for publication in the ...

Novel mechanism regulating stress identified

December 13, 2011
Neuroscience researchers from Tufts have demonstrated, for the first time, that the physiological response to stress depends on neurosteroids acting on specific receptors in the brain, and they have been able to block that ...

Recommended for you

Researchers find common psychological traits in group of Italians aged 90 to 101

December 12, 2017
In remote Italian villages nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and mountains lives a group of several hundred citizens over the age of 90. Researchers at the University of Rome La Sapienza and University of California San ...

New therapy can help schizophrenia sufferers re-engage socially

December 11, 2017
A new therapy aimed at helping young people suffering from schizophrenia to reconnect and engage with the world around them has had promising results, according to a new University of Sussex-led study.

Certain books can increase infant learning during shared reading, study shows

December 11, 2017
Parents and pediatricians know that reading to infants is a good thing, but new research shows reading books that clearly name and label people and objects is even better.

Twitter can reveal our shared mood

December 11, 2017
In the largest study of its kind, researchers from the University of Bristol have analysed mood indicators in text from 800 million anonymous messages posted on Twitter. These tweets were found to reflect strong patterns ...

Many different types of anxiety and depression exist, new study finds

December 8, 2017
Five new categories of mental illness that cut across the current more broad diagnoses of anxiety and depression have been identified by researchers in a Stanford-led study.

Study sheds light on the voices in our head

December 8, 2017
New research showing that talking to ourselves in our heads may be the same as speaking our thoughts out loud could help explain why people with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia hear voices.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.