Is it possible to inherit trauma?
ZDF documentary “terra Xplore” with Max Planck researcher Nicola Iovino
Can the trauma of our ancestors affect our lives? The horrors of war and other extreme events can leave deep marks on the psyche of traumatised people. Can these marks be so deep that they affect the health of their descendants for generations? A ZDF documentary from the terra Xplore series seeks to answer the questions of whether trauma can be inherited and what exactly could be inherited. Max Planck researcher Nicola Iovino explains the potential epigenetic mechanisms.
Wars and other extreme events can leave deep marks on the psyche, which scientists call trauma. There is some evidence that exposure to trauma can be passed from one generation to the next. In the ZDF documentary terra Xplore, psychologist Leon Windscheid wants to discover how transgenerational trauma develops and is passed on.
He meets, among others, Max Planck researcher Nicola Iovino, who explains that transgenerational inheritance of epigenetic information has been demonstrated in the fruit fly Drosophila (Zenk et al. 2017), but that for mammals such as mice and humans, no causal mechanism is known that proves that traumatic experiences are passed on transgenerationally – at least not yet.
The 30-minute program will be broadcast on ZDF on 12 November 2023. But you can watch it now in the media library!
Watch it on youtube, if not possible in the ZDF media library.
From the shownotes
Psychologist Leon Windscheid wants to know how transgenerational trauma develops and is passed on. On his journey, he visits Leroy Schwarz. Leroy repeatedly has to deal with stressful situations that he attributes to his grandmother's trauma.
Grandmother Eva is now 91 years old and survived the Auschwitz concentration camp as a twelve-year-old girl. Years after the end of the war, Eva's daughter Anita is born, and as an adult she suddenly experiences panic attacks, recurring nightmares and life-altering anxiety disorders. Leroy also suffers from the family history. Eva never thought that her experiences would affect future generations. Today, she knows how important it is to break the family spiral of silence in order to live better with the trauma. In his search for scientific explanations of transgenerational transmission, psychologist Leon Windscheid meets an internationally renowned epigeneticist (Nicola Iovino) - with astonishing results.