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Name: Edward
Status: Other
Grade:  Other
Location: N/A
Country: United States
Date: November 2005


Question:
Dr. Darold Treffert, a Wisconsin psychiatrist, has been studying Savant Syndrome for nearly 40 years. In his observations, there appears to be traits and abilities that can only be explained by the term genetic memory or ancestoral memory.

This is likened to philosopher Plato's theory of an innate memory - we are born with memories inherited from our parents andnother relatives. Has the Human Genome Project discovered or mapped a section of the DNA strand that may contain information such as memories?



Replies:
Please notice that Treffert and others are describing behaviors and abilities that require a certain kind of innate (as opposed to learned) knowledge. They call this innate knowledge "genetic memory." It's very interesting research. They do NOT claim that specific memories (i.e. recalled perceptions of specific events) are inherited. This is an important distinction. There is no known mechanism for inheriting memories in this more literal sense and there is no evidence that literal memories are inherited. Instead, please understand that Dr. Treffert and his colleagues use the term "genetic memory" in a more metaphorical sense, to refer to a set of subconscious abilities and knowledge.

Human behavior and human consciousness are extraordinarily complex phenomena that can't be fully explained on the basis of simple genetics. While we are learning a lot very quickly about how complex phenomena emerge from the simple genetic code, we are still very very far from a full understanding of how individual genes and other DNA sequences may influence human behavior. There is no known repository of inherited knowledge in the genome. If the "genetic memory" traits described by Treffert et al. do have identifiable genetic components, then they are undoubtedly scattered about among a great number of genes, and those traits are likely to emerge more from patterns of gene interaction than from single genes.

Perhaps it makes more sense to think of the entire genome as a repository of inherited information.

C. Perkins



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