A new study from Indiana University provides evidence in mice that males may play a positive role in the development of offspring’s brains starting before pregnancy. The research, reported June 30 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, found that female mice exposed to male pheromones gave birth to infants with greater mental ability. “This is the first study to show that pheromone exposure exerts an influence across generations in mammals,” said Sachiko Koyama, an associate research scientist at the IU Bloomington Medical Sciences Program and visiting scientist at the IU College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, who led the study. “We found that male pheromones seem to influence the nutritional environment following birth, resulting in changes to the brain that could extend to future generations,” she added.
By focusing on pheromone effects across generations, Koyama said the new IU study contributes to the growing field of epigenetics, which studies the influence of the environment on genetics, such as when nutrition creates changes in the body that may be passed on to the next generation.