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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2011 Jun;35(7):1544-51. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.12.016. Epub 2011 Jan 18.

Epigenetic mechanisms mediating vulnerability and resilience to psychiatric disorders.

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Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia.


The impact that stressful encounters have upon long-lasting behavioural phenotypes is varied. Whereas a significant proportion of the population will develop "stress-related" conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression in later life, the majority are considered "resilient" and are able to cope with stress and avoid such psychopathologies. The reason for this heterogeneity is undoubtedly multi-factorial, involving a complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors. Both genes and environment are of critical importance when it comes to developmental processes, and it appears that subtle differences in either of these may be responsible for altering developmental trajectories that confer vulnerability or resilience. At the molecular level, developmental processes are regulated by epigenetic mechanisms, with recent clinical and pre-clinical data obtained by ourselves and others suggesting that epigenetic differences in various regions of the brain are associated with a range of psychiatric disorders, including many that are stress-related. Here we provide an overview of how these epigenetic differences, and hence susceptibility to psychiatric disorders, might arise through exposure to stress-related factors during critical periods of development.

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