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Neuroscience. 2014 Apr 4;264:157-70. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2013.12.003. Epub 2013 Dec 13.

Epigenetics and the regulation of stress vulnerability and resilience.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA. Electronic address:


The human brain has a remarkable capacity to adapt to and learn from a wide range of variations in the environment. However, environmental challenges can also precipitate psychiatric disorders in susceptible individuals. Why any given experience should induce one brain to adapt while another is edged toward psychopathology remains poorly understood. Like all aspects of psychological function, both nature (genetics) and nurture (life experience) sculpt the brain's response to stressful stimuli. Here we review how these two influences intersect at the epigenetic regulation of neuronal gene transcription, and we discuss how the regulation of genomic DNA methylation near key stress-response genes may influence psychological susceptibility or resilience to environmental stressors. Our goal is to offer a perspective on the epigenetics of stress responses that works to bridge the gap between the study of this molecular process in animal models and its potential usefulness for understanding stress vulnerabilities in humans.


DNA methylation; epigenetics; neural plasticity; psychological stress; resilience; vulnerability

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