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Consciousness

8 ‘Paranormal’ Scientific Studies That Will Make You Question The True Nature Of Reality

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If you google “parapsychology,” the first thing that will probably pop up is a Wikipedia entry loosely (and, in my opinion, rather offensively) defining it as a “pseudoscience.” This is unfortunate, because it distracts the reader from realizing that psychical research, also known as ‘psi’ (or parapsychology), is practiced by various scientists and reputable institutions all over the world. This includes the study of paranormal activity and extended human human capacities like precognition and telepathy, among other things. As the University of Calgary points out, parapsychology is an interdisciplinary field which has attracted physicists, engineers, biologists, psychologists, and researchers in other sciences as well.

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The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) project is a great example of this comprehensive approach to the subject — a project that ran from 1979 until 2007, it aimed to examine if there was factual basis for theories in mind/matter interaction, or extrasensory perception (ESP). Highly significant statistical deviation, far beyond what one could expect from chance, was seen there. Another example would be the University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies, in which they explore such phenomena as reincarnation, near death experiences (NDEs), and out of body experiences (OBEs).

“Studies of the so-called ‘psi phenomena’ indicate that we can sometimes receive meaningful information without the use of ordinary senses, and in ways that transcend the habitual space and time constraints. Furthermore, psi research demonstrates that we can mentally influence—at a distance—physical devices and living organisms (including other human beings). Psi research also shows that distant minds may behave in ways that are nonlocally correlated, i.e. the correlations between distant minds are hypothesized to be unmediated (they are not linked to any known energetic signal), unmitigated (they do not degrade with increasing distance), and immediate (they appear to be simultaneous). These events are so common that they cannot be viewed as anomalous nor as exceptions to natural laws, but as indications of the need for a broader explanatory framework that cannot be predicated exclusively on materialism.” (source) – Manifesto for a Post-Materialist Science

Why are we presenting this information? Because the examination of these types of phenomena is vital to increasing our understanding about the nature of our reality. A lot of new science is revealing how many, and how diverse, are the factors are which influence the so-called ‘physical material world that we see around us. So what can we learn from this information? To keep an open mind, to know that not everything we believe to be true, is, and that maybe there are components of our reality that we have yet to understand. We can learn that it’s okay to take topics like this seriously, because there is a wealth of very compelling statistical data and observation that has many scientists interested in it… and perplexed.

1. Reincarnation

“There are claims in the parapsychology field which, in my opinion, deserve serious study, [with one being] that young children sometimes report details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any other way than reincarnation.” – Carl Sagan

This topic has been studied by numerous scientists who belong to various academic institutions from all over the world.

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One great example comes from University of Virginia psychiatrist Jim Tucker, who in 2008 published a review of cases suggestive of reincarnation in the journal Explore. (source)

In the article, he describes a typical reincarnation case, where subjects start reporting a past life experience. One common denominator of these cases is that they all involve children, with the average age being 35 months when subjects begin to report their experiences. The experiences described are often detailed and extensive, and Tucker points out that many of these children show strong emotional involvement when speaking about their claims; some cry and beg to be taken to what they say is their previous family. Others show intense anger.

The subjects usually stop making their past-life statements by the age of six to seven, and most seem to lose the purported memories. That is the age when children start school and begin having more experiences in the current life, as well as when they tend to lose their early childhood memories. (source)

One example Tucker describes, an American case, is of a child named Sam Taylor, who was a year and a half old when he started revealing some remarkable information:

He looked up as his father was changing his diaper and said, “When I was your age, I used to change your diapers.” He began talking more about having been his grandfather. He eventually told details of his grandfather’s life that his parents felt certain he could not have learned through normal means, such as the fact that his grandfather’s sister had been murdered and that his grandmother had used a food processor to make milkshakes for his grandfather every day at the end of his life. (source

Again, this is one of hundreds of cases. Children have also been taken to their previous families, describing the qualities and characteristics of the families, and their own past lives, about which there is no possible way the child could know. Here is another specific case that was examined by Dr. Tucker, which we wrote about a couple of months ago. And there are plenty more to choose from.

These are cases involving very young children and they offer little reason to suspect a hoax. From a scientific standpoint, however, even though these cases are intriguing, they still leave us with a problem that plagues most parapsychological research today. As Tucker points out, “the processes that would be involved in such a transfer of consciousness are completely unknown, and they await further elucidation.” (source)

2. Precognition

For a selected list of downloadable peer-reviewed journal articles reporting studies of psychic phenomena, mostly published in the 21st century, you can click HERE. At this link, you will find a select group of articles under the “precognition & presentiment” tab and more than enough scientific analyses to see why this topic is taken very seriously by some scientists.

A recently published study (meta analysis) in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience titled “Predicting the unpredictable: critical analysis and practical implications of predictive anticipatory activity” examined a number of experiments, conducted by several different laboratories, regarding this phenomenon.

These experiments indicate that the human body can actually detect randomly delivered stimuli that occur 1-10 seconds in advance. In other words, the human body seems able to know of an event and react to it before it actually occurs. This reaction takes the form of physiological changes in the skin and in the cardiopulmonary and nervous systems. (source)

Quite fascinating, isn’t it?

3. Telepathy

Again, HERE you will find some more research on telepathy.

HERE is an article outlining 5 classic experiments that showed extremely significant results for human telepathy.

Some of the most interesting results come from something called “dream telepathy,” where human beings have the ability to communicate telepathically with another person while they are dreaming.

According to Stanley Krippner, Ph.D. and professor of psychology at Saybrook University in California:

A wealth of anecdotal and clinical material exist which supports the possibility of telepathic effects occurring in dreams (Krippner, 1974). However, an experimental approach to the topic did not become possible until psycho physiological laboratory technology became available. It was discovered that sleeping research participants awakened from periods of rapid eye movement (REM) activity were frequently able to recall dream episodes. As a result, it was possible to request a “telepathic receiver” to attempt dreaming about a target stimulus that was being focused on in a distant location from a “telepathic sender.” (source)

You can view a discussion and examination of these experiments in an article we published earlier on this subject here.

4. The “Star Gate” Project

The “Star Gate” project was a Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) program that examined parapsychological phenomena for more than twenty years before it was unexpectedly shut down.

One of the most interesting revelations (imo) when it comes to science and the paranormal comes from its remote viewing program.

Remote viewing is the ability of a person to describe a remote geographical location up to several hundred thousand kilometers from their actual physical location. It’s not just one person who can do this — many people have been shown to have this ability, and this is a verified fact. The CIA and NSA, in conjunction with Stanford University, were involved in the scientific study of parapsychological phenomena that lasted more than two decades; they delved into remote viewing as part of this project.

In these experiments, multiple individuals were able to describe distinct objects that were located in a separate room and at other remote physical locations.(source)(source)(source)

As reported by a publication in the journal Scientific Exploration, one of the study’s participants, Ingo Swann, was able to successfully describe and view a ring around Jupiter that scientists had no idea existed at the time. (source 1)

5. Quantum Double Slit Experiment

In this experiment, a double-slit optical system was used to test the possible role of consciousness in the collapse of the quantum wave-function. The ratio of the interference pattern’s double slit spectral power to its single slit spectral power was predicted to decrease when attention was focused toward the double slit as compared to away from it. The study found that factors associated with consciousness “significantly” correlated in predicted ways with perturbations in the double slit interference pattern. (source)

“Observations not only disturb what has to be measured, they produce it….We compel [the electron] to assume a definite position…. We ourselves produce the results of measurement.” (source)

“It was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.” – Eugene Wigner, theoretical physicist and mathematician who received a share of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963

“A fundamental conclusion of the new physics also acknowledges that the observer creates the reality. As observers, we are personally involved with the creation of our own reality. Physicists are being forced to admit that the universe is a ‘mental’ construction. Pioneering physicist Sir James Jeans wrote: ‘The stream of knowledge is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter, we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter. Get over it, and accept the inarguable conclusion. The universe is immaterial-mental and spiritual.’ ”  – R.C. Henry, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University , “The Mental Universe”; Nature 436:29,2005) (source) This is a great experiment to show the connection between consciousness and our physical material world.

You can read a more detailed description of this experiment and see a video demonstration of it in these articles:

“Consciousness Creates Reality” – Physicists Admit The Universe Is Immaterial, Mental & Spiritual

“How Is This Possible?” Scientists Observe One Particle Exist In Multiple States

6. Delayed Choice/Quantum Eraser

Like the quantum double slit experiment, the delayed choice/quantum eraser has been demonstrated and repeated time and time again. For example, physicists at The Australian National University (ANU) have conducted John Wheeler’s delayed-choice thought experiment. The findings were recently published in the journal Nature Physics. (source)

The delayed choice experiment illustrates how what happens in the present can change what happens(ed) in the past. It also shows how time can go backwards, how cause and effect can be reversed, and how the future caused the past.

“If we attempt to attribute an objective meaning to the quantum state of a single system, curious paradoxes appear: quantum effects mimic not only instantaneous action-at-a-distance, but also, as seen here, influence of future actions on past events, even after these events have been irrevocably recorded.” – Asher Peres, pioneer in quantum information theory (source)(source)(source)

You can read more about this experiment on this article:

Quantum Experiment Shows How “Time” Doesn’t Exist As We Think It Does (Mind-Altering)

7. Out Of Body Experiences & Near Death Experiences

Below is a video of Dr. Bruce Greyson speaking at a conference that was held by the United Nations. He is considered to be one of the fathers of near death studies. He is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Science at the University of Virginia.

In the video he describes documented cases of individuals who were clinically dead (showing no brain activity) but observing everything that was happening to them on the medical table below at the same time. He describes how there have been many instances of this – where individuals are able to describe things that should have been impossible for them to have knowledge of. Another significant statement by Dr. Greyson posits that this type of study has been discouraged due to our tendency to view science as completely materialistic. Seeing is believing, so to speak, in the scientific community. It’s unfortunate that just because we cannot explain something through materialistic means, it must be instantly discredited. The simple fact that “consciousness” itself is a non-physical “thing” is troubling for some scientists; as a result of it being non material, they believe it cannot be studied by science.

In 2001, international medical journal The Lancet published a 13 year study on Near Death Experiences (NDEs).(source)(source) Their findings were remarkable, to say the least:

Our results show that medical factors cannot account for the occurrence of NDE. All patients had a cardiac arrest, and were clinically dead with unconsciousness resulting from insufficient blood supply to the brain. In those circumstances, the EEG (a measure of brain electrical activity) becomes flat, and if CPR is not started within 5-10 minutes, irreparable damage is done to the brain and the patient will die. (source)

Another study comes out of the University of Southampton, where scientists found evidence that awareness can continue for at least several minutes after death. In the scientific world this was thought to be impossible. The study, published in the journal Resuscitation, is the world’s largest of its kind. (source)

Out of body experiences, a similar phenomenon, have also been examined in depth by science.

8. Healing At A Distance

“Over the past thirty years, significant scientific research has been conducted on the potential effectiveness and value of distant healing practices. The practice of distant healing is drawing increased attention as an important component of integral medicine models that blend a range of approaches to health and healing. Many leading health professionals and spiritual leaders believe distant healing practices may significantly expand the capacity to facilitate healing.” (source) Marilyn Schlitz, PhD, President of the Institute for Noetic Sciences (IONS)

You can view some of this research HERE.

Another great example of this is the placebo effect, which you can read more about here.

Another study (which I have written about previously), published in the journal Explore in 2008, examined the effects of human intention on the autonomic nervous system of a human “sender” and the distant “receiver” of those intentions.

The design of the study went as follows:

Skin conductance level was measured in each member of a couple, both of whom were asked to feel the presence of the other. While the receiving person relaxed in a distant shielded room for 30 minutes, the sending person directed intention toward the receiver during repeated 10-second epochs separated by random interepoch periods. Thirty-six couples participated in 38 test sessions. In 22 couples, one of the pair was a cancer patient. In 12 of those couples, the healthy person was trained to direct intention toward the patient and asked to practice that intention daily for three months prior to the experiment (trained group). In the other 10 couples, the pair was tested before the partner was trained (wait group). Fourteen healthy couples re- ceived no training (control group). (source)

The study concluded that a strong motivation to heal another, and for one to be healed themselves, may enhance this phenomenon. It concluded that directing intention toward a distant person is associated with the activation of that person’s autonomic nervous system — in this case, using measurements of skin conductance.

A Quick Important Notice:

The demand for Collective Evolution's content is bigger than ever, except ad agencies and social media keep cutting our revenues. This is making it hard for us to continue.

In order to stay truly independent, we need your help. We are not going to put up paywalls on this website, as we want to get our info out far and wide. For as little as $3 a month, you can help keep CE alive!

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Consciousness

Note To Selfie: Drop The Mask

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    On social media, it's common to see pictures that don't truly represent us or the situations we are capturing. In many cases, we photograph ourselves 10 - 15 times before selecting the 'accurate' photo we will use.

  • Reflect On:

    Why do we spend so much time creating an image of ourselves, even if it is not accurate?

What if we all put down our masks? What if we agreed, that there would be no more disguises? What if we allowed each other to be our authentic self? Imagine the effect on Instagram. It boggles the mind.

Too many people believe the content uploaded on social media is actually showing us truth. Far from it. The material chosen to be uploaded to Facebook, or liked on Instagram, bears little resemblance to true life. Each photo has been carefully chosen after taking a mind-numbing series of retakes.

Each photo must be meticulously studied to ensure the subject looks nothing like the real thing. After all, the real thing isn’t going to garner followers. No one uploads pictures of themselves returning bottles to the beer store in their slippers, or cleaning out the kitty litter. Followers equate to love. More follower = more love.

We are terrified that people will see our true self and our mundane lives won’t be nearly glamorous enough. So we take 12 pictures before deciding one is good enough.

Note to selfie: Make sure you extend your arms and snap the picture from above. You must be looking up. You will look younger. Social media doesn’t like wrinkles … bad skin … or skinny lips.

“Before I started being body positive on Instagram I would’ve posted the photo on the left (sucking in my tummy as much as possible) and said something along the lines of ‘gained a bit of fat this week’ when in reality, what I look relaxed currently is like the photo on the right.”

The harm that has been done to our psyche is profound. Apparently, the psyche is quite gullible. It does believe the stories shown on social media are true. So our psyche starts putting on some pretty outlandish masks to keep up with the Jones’ psyche. It is a constant challenge to keep up with the Joneses. The Joneses can’t even keep up with Joneses. No one can. It’s a sucker’s game.

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What is the result of wearing a mask? – depression, anxiety, frustration, shame. The “Mask-Wearer” knows it’s not true. And they are terrified of being found out. Imagine the fear of being outed as a fraud. And more unsettling is this; if someone falls for that mask you’ve been wearing, don’t believe they’ve fallen for you. They are enamoured with the mask: the image. And the image isn’t real.

Let’s bring a Revolution of Real. Put down the mask. And promise yourself that you will never be anything other than your most authentic self. Masks wear very thin, very fast. Authentic beauty lasts forever.

recommended Read: Instagram User Reveals The Truth Behind Those Fitness Photos

A Quick Important Notice:

The demand for Collective Evolution's content is bigger than ever, except ad agencies and social media keep cutting our revenues. This is making it hard for us to continue.

In order to stay truly independent, we need your help. We are not going to put up paywalls on this website, as we want to get our info out far and wide. For as little as $3 a month, you can help keep CE alive!

SUPPORT CE HERE!

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Consciousness

7 Thought-Provoking Short Films You Can Watch Now For Free Online

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Film has the ability to capture our emotions and move us in what are sometimes very productive ways. We'll show you 7 thought-provoking short films you might love watching.

  • Reflect On:

    How do these films make you feel from watching them? How do they relate to your own life? What action can you take after watching these?

The world of film has always captivated me. Whether it be its ability to present a supernatural reality I’ll never get to experience, or its ability to accurately depict an emotion I can relate to, there really is something surreal about going to or staying in to watch a movie.

And while the subscription numbers to popular film and television streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime certainly suggest that I likely don’t need to sell you on choosing to watch them, I do believe that a pitch needs to be made for the particular variety of them that I’m suggesting within this article.

That variety of course, is short films. The unofficial younger sibling to feature-length films that aside from those that happen to play before a popular Pixar film, or those that are nominated for an Academy Award, often go largely unnoticed by the masses. So I’d like to present a list of 7 thought-provoking independently made short films that you can watch for free online now as part of the Spirit Film Festival until the end of October.

1. Uncaptured

How often do you consciously choose to sit in silence? And better yet, is it even readily available to you? The short film Uncaptured explores the emotional and physical impact that setting aside conscious time to be in silence can have on the thoughts, programs and belief systems we have stored within us.

Through a series of interviews we are given insight in alignment with the famous Thomas Carlyle quote the film presents just after its title card: “Silence is as deep as eternity; Speech is as shallow as time.” WATCH UNCAPTURED

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2. The Nine Billion Names of God

Based on the book by Arthur C. Clarke -most infamously known as to co-writer of 2001: A Space Odyssey with Stanley Kubrick –The Nine Billion Names of God tells the story of a Tibetan monk who seeks to list all of the names of God with the help an automatic sequence computer.

Based in 1957, the short film is beautifully shot and is carried from start to finish by a beautiful score, perfectly setting the stage for a thought-provoking adventure. WATCH THE NINE BILLIONS NAMES OF GOD

3. Leave Of Presence

If you were asked to list what would make you happy in life, a well-paying job and vibrant social life would likely make the list. Yet the presence of both of those elements didn’t stop Sudha Suthanthiram from dropping everything to head to India in search of her true calling.

This short narrative film runs less than 5 minutes in length yet it offers great food for thought for all of us questioning our purpose in life. WATCH LEAVE OF PRESENCE

4. Nectar of Devotion

Nectar of Devotion shares the fascinating transition made by the one-time frontman for an acid rock band into GuruGanesha Singh Khalsa. While his former life offered much of the surface-level pleasures that so many of us fantasize about, GuruGanesha delves into how his new life has created a happiness unlike ever before.

The short film runs under 7 minutes in length and goes into detail on the difficulties associated with making the transition and how his new kirtan rock band is making the type of impact he always desired having on others. WATCH NECTAR OF DEVOTION

5. Graham: A Dog’s Story

Whether or not you consider yourself a dog lover, Graham: A Dog’s Story is a funny and touching short film told from the perspective of a dog. From being introduced into the family, to “letting go” we’re led through so many of the stages that owners and their favorite pets often go through in life without much attention.

While the short film is carried by a comedic voiceover, it delves into many unexpected stages of a dog’s life including the impact that they have on us even long after they are gone. WATCH GRAHAM: A DOG’S STORY

6. Bekia

In just 6 minutes, Bekia powerfully shares the story of Hamdy, a seller of used goods doing everything he can to make a living on the streets of Cairo. Director Alia Adel effectively takes us into a world that most of us would never have otherwise known about.

The short is beautifully shot and well worth 6 minutes of your life. WATCH BEKIA

7. I Am Here

I Am Here is a unique short put together by the National Film Board of Canada that follows a mysterious animated travellers journey to discover the origin of life. Carried by a riveting score by composer duo Menalon, the film delves into themes and subject matter we would all benefit from pondering on.

Running just over 5 minutes in length, I Am Here manages to take a look at a lot of the questions so many of us have buried within us. WATCH I AM HERE

A Quick Important Notice:

The demand for Collective Evolution's content is bigger than ever, except ad agencies and social media keep cutting our revenues. This is making it hard for us to continue.

In order to stay truly independent, we need your help. We are not going to put up paywalls on this website, as we want to get our info out far and wide. For as little as $3 a month, you can help keep CE alive!

SUPPORT CE HERE!

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Awareness

Epigenetic Memories Are Passed Down 14 Successive Generations, Game-Changing Research Reveals

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    It's amazing how much information can be passed on to our offspring. Scientist have discovered that our DNA has memories, and these can also be passed down. We are talking about thoughts, feelings, emotions and perceptions.

  • Reflect On:

    Biological changes are shaped by our environment, as well as our thoughts, feelings, emotions and reaction to that environment. Our DNA can be changed with belief, the placebo is a great example. Thoughts feelings and emotions are huge in biology.

This article was written by the Greenmedinfo research group, from Greenmedinfo.com. Posted here with permission.

Until recently, it was believed that our genes dictate our destiny. That we are slated for the diseases that will ultimately beset us based upon the pre-wired indecipherable code written in stone in our genetic material. The burgeoning field of epigenetics, however, is overturning these tenets, and ushering in a school of thought where nurture, not nature, is seen to be the predominant influence when it comes to genetic expression and our freedom from or affliction by chronic disease.

Epigenetics: The Demise of Biological Determinism

Epigenetics, or the study of the physiological mechanisms that silence or activate genes, encompasses processes which alter gene function without changing the sequence of nucleotide base pairs in our DNA. Translated literally to mean “in addition to changes in genetic sequence,” epigenetics includes processes such as methylation, acetylation, phosphorylation, sumolyation, and ubiquitylation which can be transmitted to daughter cells upon cell division (1). Methylation, for example, is the attachment of simple methyl group tags to DNA molecules, which can repress transcription of a gene when it occurs in the region of a gene promoter. This simple methyl group, or a carbon bound to three hydrogen molecules, effectively turns the gene off.

Post-translational modifications of histone proteins is another epigenetic process. Histones help to package and condense the DNA double helix into the cell nucleus in a complex called chromatin, which can be modified by enzymes, acetyl groups, and forms of RNA called small interfering RNAs and microRNAs (1). These chemical modifications of chromatin influence its three-dimensional structure, which in turn governs its accessibility for DNA transcription and dictates whether genes are expressed or not.

We inherit one allele, or variant, of each gene from our mother and the other from our father. If the result of epigenetic processes is imprinting, a phenomenon where one of the two alleles of a gene pair is turned off, this can generate a deleterious health outcome if the expressed allele is defective or increases our susceptibility to infections or toxicants (1). Studies link cancers of nearly all types, neurobehavioral and cognitive dysfunction, respiratory illnessesautoimmune disorders, reproductive anomalies, and cardiovascular disease to epigenetic mechanisms (1). For example, the cardiac antiarrhythmic drug procainamide and the antihypertensive agent hydralazine can cause lupus in some people by causing aberrant patterns of DNA methylation and disrupting signalling pathways (1).

Genes Load the Gun, Environment Pulls the Trigger

Pharmaceuticals, however, are not the only agents that can induce epigenetic disturbances. Whether you were born via vaginal birth or Cesarean section, breastfed or bottle-fed, raised with a pet in the house, or infected with certain childhood illnesses all influence your epigenetic expression. Whether you are sedentary, pray, smoke, mediate, do yoga, have an extensive network of social support or are alienated from your community—all of your lifestyle choices play into your risk for disease operating through mechanisms of epigenetics.

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In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that genetics account for only 10% of disease, with the remaining 90% owing to environmental variables (2). An article published in the Public Library of Science One (PLoS One) entitled “Genetic factors are not the major causes of chronic diseases” echoes these claims, citing that chronic disease is only 16.4% genetic, and 84.6% environmental (3). These concepts make sense in light of research on the exposome, the cumulative measure of all the environmental insults an individual incurs during their life course that determines susceptibility to disease (4)

In delineating the totality of exposures to which an individual is subjected over their lifetime, the exposome can be subdivided into three overlapping and intertwined domains. One segment of the exposome called the internal environment is comprised of processes innate to the body which impinge on the cellular milieu. This encompasses hormones and other cellular messengers, oxidative stress, inflammation, lipid peroxidation, bodily morphology, the gut microbiotaaging and biochemical stress (5).

Another portion of the exposome, the specific external environment, consists of exposures including pathogens, radiation, chemical contaminants and pollutants, and medical interventions, as well as dietary, lifestyle, and occupational elements (5). At an even broader sociocultural and ecological level is the segment of the exposome called the general external environment, which may circumscribe factors such as psychological stress, socioeconomic status, geopolitical variables, educational attainment, urban or rural residence, and climate (5).

Transgenerational Inheritance of Epigenetic Change: Endocrine Disruptors Trigger Infertility in Future Generations

Scientists formerly speculated that epigenetic changes disappear with each new generation during gametogenesis, the formation of sperm and ovum, and after fertilization. However, this theory was first challenged by research published in the journal Science which demonstrated that transient exposure of pregnant rats to the insecticide methoxychlor, an estrogenic compound, or the fungicide vinclozolin, an antiandrogenic compound, resulted in increased incidence of male infertility and decreased sperm production and viability in 90% of the males of four subsequent generations that were tracked (1).

Most notably, these reproductive effects were associated with derangements in DNA methylation patterns in the germ line, suggesting that epigenetic changes are passed on to future generations. The authors concluded, “The ability of an environmental factor (for example, endocrine disruptor) to reprogram the germ line and to promote a transgenerational disease state has significant implications for evolutionary biology and disease etiology” (6, p. 1466). This may suggest that the endocrine-disrupting, fragrance-laden personal care products and commercial cleaning supplies to which we are all exposed may trigger fertility problems in multiple future generations.

Transgenerational Inheritance of Traumatic Episodes: Parental Experience Shapes Traits of Offspring

In addition, traumatic experiences may be transmitted to future generations via epigenetics as a way to inform progeny about salient information needed for their survival (7). In one study, researchers wafted the cherry-like chemical acetophenone into the chambers of mice while administering electric shocks, conditioning the mice to fear the scent (7). This reaction was passed onto two successive generations, which shuddered significantly more in the presence of acetophenone despite never having encountered it compared to descendants of mice that had not received this conditioning (7).

The study suggests that certain characteristics of the parental sensory environment experienced before conception can remodel the sensory nervous system and neuroanatomy in subsequently conceived generations (7). Alterations in brain structures that process olfactory stimuli were observed, as well as enhanced representation of the receptor that perceives the odor compared to control mice and their progeny (7). These changes were conveyed by epigenetic mechanisms, as illustrated by evidence that the acetophenone-sensing genes in fearful mice were hypomethylated, which may have enhanced expression of odorant-receptor genes during development leading to acetophenone sensitivity (7).

The Human Experience of Famine and Tragedy Spans Generations

The mouse study, which illustrates how germ cells (egg and sperm) exhibit dynamic plasticity and adaptability in response to environmental signals, is mirrored by human studies. For instance, exposures to certain stressors such as starvation during the gestational period are associated with poor health outcomes for offspring. Women who undergo famine before conception of her offspring have been demonstrated to give birth to children with lower self-reported mental health and quality of life, for example (8).

Studies similarly highlight that, “Maternal famine exposure around the time of conception has been related to prevalence of major affective disorders, antisocial personality disorders, schizophrenia, decreased intracranial volume, and congenital abnormalities of the central nervous system” (8). Gestational exposure to the Dutch Famine of the mid-twentieth century is also associated with lower perceived health (9), as well as enhanced incidence of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and obesity in offspring (8). Maternal undernourishment during pregnancy leads to neonatal adiposity, which is a predictor of future obesity (10), in the grandchildren (11).

The impact of epigenetics is also exemplified by research on the intergenerational effects of trauma, which illuminates that descendants of people who survived the Holocaust exhibit abnormal stresshormone profiles, and low cortisol production in particular (12). Because of their impaired cortisol response and altered stress reactivity, children of Holocaust survivors are often at enhanced risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression (13).

Intrauterine exposure to maternal stress in the form of intimate partner violence during pregnancy can also lead to changes in the methylation status of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) of their adolescent offspring (14). These studies suggest that an individual’s experience of trauma can predispose their descendants to mental illness, behavioral problems, and psychological abnormalities due to “transgenerational epigenetic programming of genes operating in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis,” a complex set of interactions among endocrine glands which determine stress response and resilience (14).

Body Cells Pass Genetic Information Directly Into Sperm Cells

Not only that, but studies are illuminating that genetic information can be transferred through the germ line cells of a species in real time. These paradigm-shifting findings overturn conventional logic which postulates that genetic change occurs over the protracted time scale of hundreds of thousands or even millions of years. In a relatively recent study, exosomes were found to be the medium through which information was transferred from somatic cells to gametes.

This experiment entailed xenotransplantation, a process where living cells from one species are grafted into a recipient of another species. Specifically, human melanoma tumor cells genetically engineered to express genes for a fluorescent tracer enzyme called EGFP-encoding plasmid were transplanted into mice. The experimenters found that information-containing molecules containing the EGFP tracer were released into the animals’ blood (15). Exosomes, or “specialized membranous nano-sized vesicles derived from endocytic compartments that are released by many cell types” were found among the EGFP trackable molecules (16, p. 447).

Exosomes, which are synthesized by all plant and animal cells, contain distinct protein repertoires and are created when inward budding occurs from the membrane of multivesicular bodies (MVBs), a type of organelle that serves as a membrane-bound sorting compartment within eukaryotic cells (16). Exosomes contain microRNA (miRNA) and small RNA, types of non-coding RNA involved in regulating gene expression (16). In this study, exosomes delivered RNAs to mature sperm cells (spermatozoa) and remained stored there (15).

The researchers highlight that this kind of RNA can behave as a “transgenerational determinant of inheritable epigenetic variations and that spermatozoal RNA can carry and deliver information that cause phenotypic variations in the progeny” (15). In other words, the RNA carried to sperm cells by exosomes can preside over gene expression in a way that changes the observable traits and disease risk of the offspring as well as its morphology, development, and physiology.

This study was the first to elucidate RNA-mediated transfer of information from somatic to germ cells, which fundamentally overturns what is known as the Weisman barrier, a principle which states that the movement of hereditary information from genes to body cells is unidirectional, and that the information transmitted by egg and sperm to future generations remains independent of somatic cells and parental experience (15).

Further, this may bear implications for cancer risk, as exosomes contain vast amounts of genetic information which can be source of lateral gene transfer (17) and are abundantly liberated from tumor cells (18). This can be reconciled with the fact that exosome-resembling vesicles have been observed in various mammals (15), including humans, in close proximity to sperm in anatomical structures such as the epididymis as well as in seminal fluid (19). These exosomes may thereafter be propagated to future generations with fertilization and augment cancer risk in the offspring (20).

The researchers concluded that sperm cells can act as the final repositories of somatic cell-derived information, which suggests that epigenetic insults to our body cells can be relayed to future generations. This notion is confirmatory of the evolutionary theory of “soft inheritance” proposed by French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, whereby characteristics acquired over the life of an organism are transmitted to offspring, a concept which modern genetics previously rejected before the epigenetics arrived on the scene. In this way, the sperm are able to spontaneously assimilate exogenous DNA and RNA molecules, behaving both as vector of their native genome and of extrachromosomal foreign genetic material which is “then delivered to oocytes at fertilization with the ensuing generation of phenotypically modified animals” (15).

Epigenetic Changes Endure Longer Than Ever Predicted

In a recent study, nematode worms were manipulated to harbor a transgene for a fluorescent protein, which made the worms glow under ultraviolet light when the gene was activated (21). When the worms were incubated under the ambient temperature of 20° Celsius (68° Fahrenheit), negligible glowing was observed, indicating low activity of the transgene (21). However, transferring the worms to a warmer climate of 25°C (77° F) stimulated expression of the gene, as the worms glowed brightly (21).

In addition, this temperature-induced alteration in gene expression was found to persist for at least 14 generations, representing the preservation of epigenetic memories of environmental change across an unprecedented number of generations (21). In other words, the worms transmitted memories of past environmental conditions to their descendants, through the vehicle of epigenetic change, as a way to prepare their offspring for prevailing environmental conditions and ensure their survivability.

Future Directions: Where Do We Go From Here?

Taken cumulatively, the aforementioned research challenges traditional Mendelian laws of genetics, which postulate that genetic inheritance occurs exclusively through sexual reproduction and that traits are passed to offspring through the chromosomes contained in germ line cells, and never through somatic (bodily) cells. Effectively, this proves the existence of non-Mendelian transgenerational inheritance, where traits separate from chromosomal genes are transmitted to progeny, resulting in persistent phenotypes that endure across generations (22).

This research imparts new meaning to the principle of seven generation stewardship taught by Native Americans, which mandates that we consider the welfare of seven generations to come in each of our decisions. Not only should we embody this approach in practices of environmental sustainability, but we would be wise to consider how the conditions to which we subject our bodies—the pollution and toxicants which permeate the landscape and pervade our bodies, the nutrient-devoid soil that engenders micronutrient-poor food, the disruptions to our circadian rhythm due to the ubiquity of electronic devices, our divorce from nature and the demise of our tribal affiliations—may translate into ill health effects and diminished quality of life for a previously unfathomed number of subsequent generations.

Hazards of modern agriculture, the industrial revolution, and contemporary living are the “known or suspected drivers behind epigenetic processes…including heavy metals, pesticides, diesel exhaust, tobacco smoke, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, hormones, radioactivity, viruses, bacteria, and basic nutrients” (1, p. A160). Serendipitously, however, many inputs such as exercise, mindfulness, and bioactive components in fruits and vegetables such as sulforaphane in cruciferous vegetables, resveratrol from red grapes, genistein from soy, diallyl sulphide from garlic, curcumin from turmeric, betaine from beets, and green tea catechin can favorably modify epigenetic phenomena “either by directly inhibiting enzymes that catalyze DNA methylation or histone modifications, or by altering the availability of substrates necessary for those enzymatic reactions” (23, p. 8).

This quintessentially underscores that the air we breathe, the food we eat, the thoughts we allow, the toxins to which we are exposed, and the experiences we undergo may persevere in our descendants and remain in our progeny long after we are gone. We must be cognizant of the effects of our actions, as they elicit a ripple effect through the proverbial sands of time.

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References

1. Weinhold, B. (2006). Epigenetics: The Science of Change. Environmental Health Perspectives, 114(3), A160-A167.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Exposome and Exposomics. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/exposome/

3. Rappaport, S.M. (2016). Genetic factors are not the major causes of chronic diseases. PLoS One, 11(4), e0154387.

4. Vrijheid, M. (2014). The exposome: a new paradigm to study the impact of environment on health. Thorax, 69(9), 876-878. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2013-204949.

5. Wild, C.P. (2012). The exposome: from concept to utility. International Journal of Epidemiology, 41, 24–32. doi:10.1093/ije/dyr236

6. Anway, M.D. et al. (2005). Epigenetic transgenerational actions of endocrine disruptors and male fertility. Science, 308(5727), 1466-1469.

7. Dias, B.G., & Ressler, K.J. (2014). Parental olfactory experience influences behavior and neural structure in subsequent generations. Nature Neuroscience, 17(1), 89-98.

8. Stein, A.D. et al. (2009). Maternal exposure to the Dutch Famine before conception and during pregnancy: quality of life and depressive symptoms in adult offspring. Epidemiology, 20(6), doi:  10.1097/EDE.0b013e3181b5f227.

9. Roseboom, T.J. et al. (2003). Perceived health of adults after prenatal exposure to the Dutch famine. Paediatrics Perinatal Epidemiology, 17, 391–397.

10. Badon, S.E. et al. (2014). Gestational Weight Gain and Neonatal Adiposity in the Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcome Study-North American Region. Obesity (Silver Spring), 22(7), 1731–1738.

11. Veenendaal, M.V. et al. (2013). Transgenerational effects of prenatal exposure to the 1944-45 Dutch famine. BJOG, 120(5), 548-53. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.

12. Yehuda, R., & Bierer, L.M. (2008). Transgenerational transmission of cortisol and PTSD risk. Progress in Brain Research, 167, 121-135.

13. Aviad-Wilcheck, Y. et al. (2013). The effects of the survival characteristics of parent Holocaust survivors on offsprings’ anxiety and depression symptoms. The Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences, 50(3), 210-216.

14. Radke, K.M. et al. (2011). Transgenerational impact of intimate partner violence on methylation in the promoter of the glucocorticoid receptor. Translational Psychiatry, 1, e21. doi: 10.1038/tp.2011.21.

15. Cossetti, C. et al. (2014). Soma-to-Germline Transmission of RNA in Mice Xenografted with Human Tumour Cells: Possible Transport by Exosomes. PLoS One, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0101629.

16. Zomer, A. et al. (2010). Exosomes: Fit to deliver small RNA. Communicative and Integrative Biology, 3(5), 447–450.

17. Balaj, L. et al. (2011) Tumour microvesicles contain retrotransposon elements and amplified oncogene sequences. Natural Communications, 2, 180.

18. Azmi, A.S., Bao, B., & Sarkar, F.H. (2013). Exosomes in cancer development, metastasis, and drug resistance: a comprehensive review. Cancer Metastasis Review, 32, 623-643

19. Poliakov, A. et al. (2009). Structural heterogeneity and protein composition of exosomes-like vesicles (prostasomes) in human semen. Prostate, 69, 159-167.

20. Cheng, R.Y. et al. (2004) Epigenetic and gene expression changes related to transgenerational carcinogenesis. Molecular Carcinogenesis, 40, 1–11.

21. Klosin, A. et al. (2017). Transgenerational transmission of environmental information in C. elegans. Science, 356(6335).

22. Lim, J.P., & Brunet, A. (2013). Bridging the transgenerational gap with epigenetic memory. Trends in Genetics, 29(3), 176-186. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2012.12.008

23. Choi, S.-W., & Friso, S. (2010). Epigenetics: A New Bridge between Nutrition and Health Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, 1(1), 8-16. doi:10.3945/an.110.1004.

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