Neuroscience and the Study of Intergenerational Trauma

Neuroscience and the Study of Intergenerational Trauma: How Does the Remote Past Get Under Our Skin? - Marianne Hirsch

Videos from the event

  1. SPEAKER: Frances Champagne, Professor of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin
  2. SPEAKER: Rachel Yehuda, Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  3. SPEAKER: Gabriele M. Schwab, Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine
  4. SPEAKER: Marianne Hirsch, William Peterfield Trent Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University
  5. PANEL DISCUSSION: Panel Discussion

Event Information

November 18, 2019, Italian Academy, Columbia University

How do we "remember" things that did not happen to us? Neuroscience has made remarkable discoveries about ways in which our brains and bodies can be affected by traumatic experiences of our parents. We know that children born to survivors of cataclysmic events are themselves more susceptible to stress, and at greater risk of mental illnesses like PTSD, despite never having experienced the trauma themselves. Epigenetics, the in-utero environment, early experiences, and the parent-child relationship all play a role. These discoveries have spurred a compelling field of research into intergenerational trauma, revealing a complexity of biological and psychological interactions determining risk or resilience - but what does this new knowledge mean for survivors and their children? Scholars in the humanities and arts have long explored the lived experiences of those who feel they have inherited trauma from past generations. What can neuroscientists learn from these explorations, and what can other disciplines take from advances in neuroscience? At this seminar, we heard from pioneering researchers, clinicians, and scholars as they made sense of how the remote past gets under the skin to affect the present. 

Moderated by Clare McCormack, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience at Columbia University.