That Brief Moment With A Stranger Will Alter Gene Activity

According to a new study, that brief interaction you had with a stranger could have profound, long-term affacts on your brain, affects that could last for hours.

from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170717110440.htm
A five-minute encounter with an outsider spurs a cascade of changes in gene activity in the brain that can last for hours, researchers report in a study of stickleback fish.

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The research, described in the journal PLOS Genetics, is one of three recent studies — the others conducted in honey bees and mice — to see waves of changes in gene expression in the brain 30 minutes to two hours after contact with an intruder.

“We are discovering that social interactions are extremely potent; they provoke big changes in gene expression in the brain,” said University of Illinois animal biology professor Alison Bell, who studies behavior in three-spined stickleback fish. “These very subtle social interactions are getting under the skin and becoming embedded in the brain. Studies like ours are beginning to show how that actually works.”

The observed changes included modifications to chromatin accessibility — a selective unpacking of the DNA that allows some genes, but not others, to be transcribed and translated into proteins.

“We used to think that DNA was so tightly packaged that it took a long time for that packaging to become unwrapped,” Bell said. “But our study shows that the unpackaging can happen fast — within minutes to hours — and we show that something really subtle, like a social interaction, can provoke dramatic changes in chromatin accessibility.”

 

Brief interactions spur lasting waves of gene activity in the brain

A five-minute encounter with an outsider spurs a cascade of changes in gene activity in the brain that can last for hours, researchers report in a study of stickleback fish.

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