The smell of fear can be inherited, scientists prove


fear (Photo credit: siette)

This is ‘epigenetics’, first proposed by Lamarck at around the same time as Darwin was championing evolution.  Darwin’s theory of course won through and Lamarck was discredited until now and the linkage of gene change to environmental factors.  A fascinating piece of research.



There’s nothing to fear but fear itself.
Let’s take the old maxim down from the shelf
and see why fear can be bad for your health.
It’s all in the genes, it seems, just picture these scenes ……

My granddad was sleeping peaceful in bed
when a large hairy spider fell on his head.
He awoke and screamed, collapsed half-dead.
Now I have arachnophobia instead.

He rushed out the door, tripped over the cat
and fell down the stairs, just fancy that.
So all because of that mog on the mat
I’ve ailurophobia, no doubt of that.

He rolled on the floor writhing in pain.
Waves of agony, again and again,
from the broken leg which he had sustained.
Now algophobia is my complaint.

The doctor arrived, a man with a beard
who prodded and poked, brought my granddad to tears.
That hairy face on his memory was seared –
hence pogonophobia for me, it appears.

All this happened on Friday thirteenth;
more than spooky coincidence it seems
which plagued my granddad every night in his dreams
and paraskavedekatriaphobia came down through his genes.

So much to fear, it’s all so absurd
but the worst of my fears, you may have heard,
is sesquipedalophobia – the fear of long words.

1st December 2013 – headline from the Independent

Notes:  “The smell of fear can be inherited, scientists prove.”  Scientists have shown for the first time that fear can be transmitted from a father to his offspring through his sperm alone in a ground-breaking study into a new kind of genetic inheritance.  Experiments on mice have demonstrated that they can be trained to associate a particular kind of smell to a fearful memory and that this fear can be passed down through subsequent generations via chemical changes to a father’s sperm cells.  The findings raise questions over whether a similar kind of inheritance occurs in humans, for example whether men exposed to the psychological trauma of a foreign war zone can pass on this fearful behavioural experience in their sperm to their children and grandchildren conceived at home.


2 thoughts on “The smell of fear can be inherited, scientists prove

  1. Well, grandpa didn’t give you syphilophobia, so stop being querulous 😉

    By the way, I’m disappointed you didn’t use ‘hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia’

    • Hi thirdnews. Welcome back! Sorry to hear you were disappointed with lack of “hippopoto ….. etc”. Did consider it but had a problem with scansion. As for syphilophobia, yes that’s lucky. Phobophobia is interesting because if that is a genuine fear then so must be phobophobophobia and phobophobophobophobia and phobophobophobophobophobia …. and so on

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