Traces of the invisible world of becoming
Epigenetic correlates of prenatal psychology
How does an egg cell become a child? Children talk about heaven and sometimes know things they cannot know. Five year old Mary sits in the backseat in the car wash and says:”That sounds like when I was in your belly, Mom." There are moments when we remember something we had forgotten. Appearing like sparks of light from worlds far away. Where do these memories come from? The brain may not even have been created, let alone matured as a memory palace. How does the first neuron and heart cell develop from the embryonic stem cells of the first days?
Experiences and environmental conditions can be stored in the so called epigenetic memory. Epigenetic information carriers can be attached to the DNA and influence its accessibility and thus the characteristics of a cell. In this manner, a heart cell is created from a stem cell. A neuron recognizes a smell that only the grandfather ever smelled before. Such epigenetic mechanisms are plastic - like the neural structures in the brain - and they are active in all cells, from egg cell and sperm until the last breath of life.
This chapter presents epigenetic studies from five periods of time around conception and birth which exemplarily show how living conditions and experiences during this time can leave traces in our cells.