Butterflies Have Memories.

April 21, 2023

Butterflies Have Memories.

May 29, 2023

“Midlife chrysalis” is a term we enjoy at MEA and it’s one I unleashed to the world at the TED conference this week in Vancouver. We’ll share the video of the speech when it’s available.

As the term “midlife chrysalis” suggests, our challenges in our 40s or 50s might feel gooey, dark, and solitary, it’s not a crisis…it’s a chrysalis which is where the transformation happens. Put another way, life gets better as we age. Maybe life begins at 50 when the U-Curve of Happiness starts showing an upward trajectory!

We’ve long known that within the caterpillar are bundles of cells called imaginal discs that catalyze the metamorphosis. So, in essence, the caterpillar and butterfly have the same DNA. I’ve always wondered whether the butterfly remembers what it was like to be a caterpillar, much like we remember our younger years.

Martha Weiss of Georgetown University led a group of researchers who showed that formative experiences in the caterpillar stage, like being exposed to nail polish remover, were remembered as a butterfly. She says, “People always thought that during metamorphosis, the caterpillar turns to soup, and all the ingredients are rearranged into the butterfly or moth,” says Weiss. “That clearly isn’t what happens. Parts of the brain are retained that allow memories to persist through this very dramatic transition.”

So, be nice to the stoic, industrious caterpillar, as the beautiful, floating butterfly will remember you!

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