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Behavioral epigenetics and the developmental origins of child mental health disorders

  • B. M. Lester (a1) (a2) (a3) (a4), C. J. Marsit (a5), E. Conradt (a1) (a4), C. Bromer (a6) and J. F. Padbury (a3) (a4)...

Abstract

Advances in understanding the molecular basis of behavior through epigenetic mechanisms could help explain the developmental origins of child mental health disorders. However, the application of epigenetic principles to the study of human behavior is a relatively new endeavor. In this paper we discuss the ‘Developmental Origins of Health and Disease’ including the role of fetal programming. We then review epigenetic principles related to fetal programming and the recent application of epigenetics to behavior. We focus on the neuroendocrine system and develop a simple heuristic stress-related model to illustrate how epigenetic changes in placental genes could predispose the infant to neurobehavioral profiles that interact with postnatal environmental factors potentially leading to mental health disorders. We then discuss from an ‘Evo-Devo’ perspective how some of these behaviors could also be adaptive. We suggest how elucidation of these mechanisms can help to better define risk and protective factors and populations at risk.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Dr B. Lester, Department of Pediatrics, Brown Center for Children, Women and Infants Hospital, 101 Dudley Street, Providence, RI, 02905 USA. (E-mails blester@wihri.org

References

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Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease
  • ISSN: 2040-1744
  • EISSN: 2040-1752
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-developmental-origins-of-health-and-disease
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