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Annu Rev Psychol. 2018 Jan 4;69:459-485. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-122414-033653. Epub 2017 Oct 16.

Principles and Challenges of Applying Epigenetic Epidemiology to Psychology.

Jones MJ1,2, Moore SR1,2, Kobor MS1,2,3.

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Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics, British Columbia Children's Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia V6H 3N1, Canada; email: , ,
Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6H 3N1, Canada.
Human Early Learning Partnership, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z3, Canada.


The interplay of genetically driven biological processes and environmental factors is a key driver of research questions spanning multiple areas of psychology. A nascent area of research focuses on the utility of epigenetic marks in capturing this intersection of genes and environment, as epigenetic mechanisms are both tightly linked to the genome and environmentally responsive. Advances over the past 10 years have allowed large-scale assessment of one epigenetic mark in particular, DNA methylation, in human populations, and the examination of DNA methylation is becoming increasingly common in psychological studies. In this review, we briefly outline some principles of epigenetics, focusing on highlighting important considerations unique to DNA methylation studies to guide psychologists in incorporating DNA methylation into a project. We discuss study design and biological and analytical considerations and conclude by discussing interpretability of epigenetic findings and how these important factors are currently being applied across areas of psychology.


DNA methylation; epigenetics; methods; psychology; study design

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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