Ego wrote: Must we be physically in the same hive or could we consider this forum a sort of hive, giving us whatever necessary prompts to provoke epigenetic changes? Is it pheromones prompting the changes? Is it all in our heads? It is probably a little of both. Hum.
I was really curious about this myself. I did some research, but couldn't find a satisfactory answer. I decided to contact Dr. Coles directly (his research is featured in the article). He was gracious enough to answer...
jennypenny wrote:Do think it is necessary to be in close proximity to other people to be affected by them on the level you describe? Our particular group is in constant contact with each other. We share very personal information about everything including finances through online journals accessible by all. We don't, however, see each other in person for the most part.
Could we be affecting each other in the way you described? Is direct physical interaction necessary?
Dr. Coles wrote:Hi Jenny,
Absolutely - no physical interaction is necessary, as long as these relationships help you feel safe, secure, and cared for. Or to put it another way, the contact you have with people "in your head" seems to be a major driver of the gene expression effects we see. If that contact is good and supportive, more favorable gene expression dynamics are seen. If the "same" real-world contact is experienced as threatening or uncertain, less favorable (more health-risky) gene expression profiles are seen.
That's not to say the objective "real world" social contact does not matter. Some aspects of real-world contact definitely affect immune cell gene expression (think of the colds and flu's for an example). But they seem to affect different genes than the ones impacted by experienced social support.
What has been particularly interesting in our studies is the observation that the "experienced contact" and its effects on people's sense of security and positive world-view are associated with 2-3 times as many differences in gene expression as the "objective contact" dynamics (such as colds, flus, etc).
Great news for the forumites, I would say.