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Previous Programs

2019 Intelligence in the Physical World
Awardees

2019 Information as Fuel
Awardees

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
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2015 The Physics of What Happens
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2013 Physics of Information
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2010 The Nature of Time
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2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
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2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
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Edi Barkai
University of Haifa

Project Title

Biophysical mechanisms underlying epigenetic inheritance of enhanced complex learning capabilities

Project Summary

The motivation for submitting this grant proposal stems from a puzzling finding we obtained in the course of our work on the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the ability to generalize from previous experience, termed 'rule learning'. Much to our surprise, it became apparent that the offspring of rats who acquired rule-learning are much better learners than rats whose parents were not trained for such a rule. The inheritance of such superb learning capability is remarkably resilient; It does not require any social contact between the parents and the offspring, it is passed on to the third generation even if the second generation is not exposed to any training. It is also not dependent on the gender of the trained parent. Accordingly, we suggest that rats pass on trans-generationally to their offspring superb learning capabilities, which they acquired with great effort. Moreover, such inheritance is mediated by well-identified biophysical modifications that are present in most neurons in the offspring's brains, as a result of which their brains store memories rapidly and easily. Such a new concept is bound to affect considerably not only our understating of the biological bases of learning and memory but would also have significant social implications.



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