Phobias May Be Inherited, Study Reveals

December 28, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. pass on [pas, pahs on] (v. phrase) – to transmit or transfer something
Example: Parents pass on their genes to their children.

2. scent [sent] (n.) – the smell or odor of something
Example: I can smell the sweet scent of the flower.

3. offspring [AWF-spring, OF-] (n.) – a person’s or an animal’s young (baby)
Example: Mammals breastfeed their offspring.

4. notable [NOH-tuh-buh l] (adj.) – remarkable or worthy of praise
Example: Researchers were awarded for their notable work.

5. irrational [ih-RASH-uh-nl] (adj.) – without a reasonable basis
Example: He does not know why he has an irrational fear of spiders.


Read the text below.
A new research has revealed how a phobia is developed, suggesting that it can be passed on from one generation to another.

Researchers from the Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta conducted this research, published in the journal of Nature Neuroscience [noo r-oh-SAHY-uh ns, nyoo r-]. The research involved mice trained to fear the scent of cherry blossoms through constant electric shocks. After establishing the fear, the mice were allowed to breed.

Phobia is a disorder in which a person feels extreme fear over something. According to the research, phobias can be inherited from an ancestor who had experienced the same fear or trauma before.

Results of the study revealed that the offspring of the trained mice turned out to be fearful towards the smell of cherry blossoms. Similarly, the next generation showed the same fear despite not having smelled the flower before.

Another notable result is that the brains of both generations showed changes in the part used in smelling. The mice’s DNAs also showed chemical changes, suggesting that experiences are transferred from the brain to the genes. This transfer may explain how phobia is passed on from the parent to the offspring.

Convinced by the results, the researchers suggest that this study can help explain why people tend to feel intense irrational fear towards something.

But since the research involved mice, further studies are still needed to know if the same results would apply to humans.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Are you convinced that fear can be inherited? Why or why not?
·         In your opinion, what can be the other causes of phobia or fear? Please explain briefly.

Discussion B

·         How do you think fear can affect a person’s life? Please explain your answer.
·         How can family and friends help a person conquer his or her fears?


December 28, 2013