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Annu Rev Psychol. 2010;61:439-66, C1-3. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163625.

Epigenetics and the environmental regulation of the genome and its function.

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  • 1Sackler Program for Epigenetics and Psychobiology of McGill University, Douglas Mental Health University Institute and the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, Montreal, Quebec, H4H 1R3 Canada.


There are numerous examples in psychology and other disciplines of the enduring effects of early experience on neural function. In this article, we review the emerging evidence for epigenetics as a candidate mechanism for these effects. Epigenetics refers to functionally relevant modifications to the genome that do not involve a change in nucleotide sequence. Such modifications include chemical marks that regulate the transcription of the genome. There is now evidence that environmental events can directly modify the epigenetic state of the genome. Thus studies with rodent models suggest that during both early development and in adult life, environmental signals can activate intracellular pathways that directly remodel the "epigenome," leading to changes in gene expression and neural function. These studies define a biological basis for the interplay between environmental signals and the genome in the regulation of individual differences in behavior, cognition, and physiology.

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