Altered DNA Reveals Genetic Component to Ancestral Wounding

It’s commonly understood that physical characteristics and some personality traits are handed down from parent to child, but what about memories and the behaviors associated with them?

While the concept of ancestral wounding is not new, it has been accepted primarily as an energetic experience. Shamans and healers of various kinds perform soul retrieval ceremonies and bodywork techniques such as craniosacral therapy to address inborn patterns of psychological and physical pain.

Peter Scanlan, PhD, a clinical psychologist based in Nashville, Tennessee, credits ancestral work as being at the core of his current healing work, which involves what he refers to as soul initiation. On his website, he says, “It is not uncommon for people who are working on their personal wounding to realize that some of the sadness and anger they experience is not totally personal. Deeper exploration uncovers the energies of wounded ancestors—for example, a mother, a great grandfather, or an ancestral collective—that have somehow been transmitted or handed down to the one now experiencing the emotions.”

And it would appear that the impact of our ancestors’ experiences goes beyond the energetic and psychic realms; it has now been observed in DNA and brain tissue. Recent research published in Nature Neuroscience shows that aversive events alter DNA in sperm, thereby impacting the genetic traits of a person’s offspring.

The research focused on scent memory in mice; the mice were conditioned to feel fear in the presence of a particular smell—in this case, a scent akin to cherry blossom—and once born, their offspring displayed a similar aversion to that smell. Researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, examined the DNA of these mice and determined that there is a particular portion responsible for the encoding of this inherited sensitivity. Brain structure was also found to be affected in the offspring of the mice who underwent scent conditioning.

The report describes this phenomenon as “transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.” In other words, a person’s surroundings and experiences impact his or her genetics, and those traits then have the potential to be passed on to subsequent generations. Among other things, these findings may prove useful in addressing conditions like phobias and anxiety.


  1. Dias, B. G., and Ressler, K. J. (2013, December 1). Parental olfactory experience influences behavior and neural structure in subsequent generations. Nature Neuroscience. doi: 10.1038/nn.3594. Retrieved from
  2. Gallagher, J. (2013, December 1). ‘Memories’ pass between generations. BBC News Health. Retrieved from
  3. Scanlan, P. Ancestral work. Retrieved from

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  • Shanda


    December 5th, 2013 at 4:58 AM

    Whoa now that is deep and powerful!! The actions and experiences in the past of my ancestors having the ability to impact me even today? Just wow

  • matt


    December 6th, 2013 at 4:53 AM

    Do you now think that there will be those who use this as an excuse? Like, oh my grandparents went through this so now I am feeling the same thing? I think that they could be more sensitive to the issue but not have any altered DNA, but you know that there are going to be those always looking for something to use as a crutch. This may become that excuse for them.

  • Kendall P

    Kendall P

    December 8th, 2013 at 4:29 AM

    But for something such as altered DNA to take place would you say that this has had to happen to many ancestors over time? That not simply the experience of one would be enough to change the very DNA of the family? I would think that this has to be something that brings about changes over time and very slowly, much like the total evolutionary process. Please correct me if I am wrong for I don’t wish to diminish the validity of the study

  • tyran


    December 11th, 2013 at 3:54 AM

    So this goes way beyond just being told this is what you should think and feel?

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