A new study in mice has suggested that exposure to stress during early pregnancy can lead to long-term changes in offspring that can be passed across generations.
The study found that sons of male mice exposed to prenatal stress are more sensitive to stress as adults.
Tracy Bale, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues previously found that male mice were sensitive to prenatal stress.
In the current study Bale, together with Chris Morgan, also of the University of Pennsylvania, bred those stress-sensitive males with normal females to see if the heightened stress response could be transmitted to the next generation of mice.
Even though the male offspring had no additional exposure to stress in the womb, they displayed a more pronounced reaction to stress, just like their fathers.
"This study shows that the effects of maternal stress in mice are passed by the sons to the grandsons of the stressed mothers," said Arthur Arnold, PhD, an expert on sex differences in the brain at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The study has been published in The Journal of Neuroscience.