Neuroscientist Bianca Jones Marlin's research investigates the relationship between the innate and the learned, how learned information is passed to subsequent generations via paternal transgenerational epigenetic inheritance — or how trauma in parents affect the brain structure and sensory experience of their future offspring. It is this research she will bring to the Chautauqua Lecture Series’ exploration on “The Human Brain.”
Marlin is now principal investigator at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, where she researches the mystery of the mechanism of transgenerational inheritance of environmental information. Her work combines neural imaging, behavior, and molecular genetics, through which she found that a learned behavior in the parent can essentially become an innate behavior in the offspring. Marlin's goal is to uncover the process in which a learned adaptation can be transmitted across generations, providing innovative insight into elusive mechanisms of evolution. Her work in elucidating the mechanisms through which learning and emotion in one generation are transmitted, not culturally but rather biologically through DNA, will have profound implications in societal health and mental well-being.
As a graduate student, Marlin examined how the brain adapts to care for a newborn, and how a baby’s cry can control adult behavior. Her research focused on the vital bond between parent and child, and studied the use of neurochemicals, such as the “love drug” oxytocin, as a treatment to strengthen fragile and broken parent-child relationships. Her research has been featured in NPR’s “Science Friday,” the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Scientific America, and Discover Magazine’s “100 Top Stories of 2015.”
Marlin holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the New York University School of Medicine, and dual bachelor degrees in biology and adolescent education from St. John’s University.
About Chautauqua Institution: Chautauqua Institution is a community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state that comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. As a community, we celebrate, encourage and study the arts and treat them as integral to all of learning, and we convene the critical conversations of the day to advance understanding through civil dialogue. CHQ Assembly is the online expression of Chautauqua Institution's mission.