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A significant proportion of the global burden of disease can be attributed to mental illness. Despite important advances in identifying risk factors for mental health conditions, the biological processing underlying causal pathways to disease onset remain poorly understood. This represents a limitation to implement effective prevention and the development of novel pharmacological treatments. Epigenetic mechanisms have emerged as mediators of environmental and genetic risk factors which might play a role in disease onset, including childhood adversity (CA) and cannabis use (CU). Particularly, human research exploring DNA methylation has provided new and promising insights into the role of biological pathways implicated in the aetio-pathogenesis of psychiatric conditions, including: monoaminergic (Serotonin and Dopamine), GABAergic, glutamatergic, neurogenesis, inflammatory and immune response and oxidative stress. While these epigenetic changes have been often studied as disease-specific, similarly to the investigation of environmental risk factors, they are often transdiagnostic. Therefore, we aim to review the existing literature on DNA methylation from human studies of psychiatric diseases (i) to identify epigenetic modifications mapping onto biological pathways either transdiagnostically or specifically related to psychiatric diseases such as Eating Disorders, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Bipolar and Psychotic Disorder, Depression, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Anxiety Disorder, and (ii) to investigate a convergence between some of these epigenetic modifications and the exposure to known risk factors for psychiatric disorders such as CA and CU, as well as to other epigenetic confounders in psychiatry research.
We previously reported an association between 5HTTLPR genotype and
outcome following cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT) in child anxiety
(Cohort 1). Children homozygous for the low-expression short-allele
showed more positive outcomes. Other similar studies have produced mixed
results, with most reporting no association between genotype and CBT
To replicate the association between 5HTTLPR and CBT outcome in child
anxiety from the Genes for Treatment study (GxT Cohort 2,
n = 829).
Logistic and linear mixed effects models were used to examine the
relationship between 5HTTLPR and CBT outcomes. Mega-analyses using both
cohorts were performed.
There was no significant effect of 5HTTLPR on CBT outcomes in Cohort 2.
Mega-analyses identified a significant association between 5HTTLPR and
remission from all anxiety disorders at follow-up (odds ratio 0.45,
P = 0.014), but not primary anxiety disorder
The association between 5HTTLPR genotype and CBT outcome did not
replicate. Short-allele homozygotes showed more positive treatment
outcomes, but with small, non-significant effects. Future studies would
benefit from utilising whole genome approaches and large, homogenous
Diurnal preference is an individual's preference for daily activities and sleep timing and is strongly correlated with the underlying circadian clock and the sleep-wake cycle validating its use as an indirect circadian measure in humans. Recent research has implicated DNA methylation as a mechanism involved in the regulation of the circadian clock system in humans and other mammals. In order to evaluate the extent of epigenetic differences associated with diurnal preference, we examined genome-wide patterns of DNA methylation in DNA from monozygotic (MZ) twin-pairs discordant for diurnal preference. MZ twins were selected from a longitudinal twin study designed to investigate the interplay of genetic and environmental factors in the development of emotional and behavioral difficulties. Fifteen pairs of MZ twins were identified in which one member scored considerably higher on the Horne–Ostberg Morningness–Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ) than the other. Genome-wide DNA methylation patterns were assessed in twins’ buccal cell DNA using the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChips. Quality control and data pre-processing was undertaken using the wateRmelon package. Differentially methylated probes (DMPs) were identified using an analysis strategy taking into account both the significance and the magnitude of DNA methylation differences. Our data indicate that DNA methylation differences are detectable in MZ twins discordant for diurnal preference. Moreover, downstream gene ontology (GO) enrichment analysis on the top-ranked diurnal preference associated DMPs revealed significant enrichment of pathways that have been previously associated with circadian rhythm regulation, including cell adhesion processes and calcium ion binding.
This paper presents multilevel findings on adolescents' victimization exposure from a large longitudinal cohort of twins. Data were obtained from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, an epidemiological study of 2,232 children (1,116 twin pairs) followed to 18 years of age (with 93% retention). To assess adolescent victimization, we combined best practices in survey research on victimization with optimal approaches to measuring life stress and traumatic experiences, and introduce a reliable system for coding severity of victimization. One in three children experienced at least one type of severe victimization during adolescence (crime victimization, peer/sibling victimization, Internet/mobile phone victimization, sexual victimization, family violence, maltreatment, or neglect), and most types of victimization were more prevalent among children from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Exposure to multiple victimization types was common, as was revictimization; over half of those physically maltreated in childhood were also exposed to severe physical violence in adolescence. Biometric twin analyses revealed that environmental factors had the greatest influence on most types of victimization, while severe physical maltreatment from caregivers during adolescence was predominantly influenced by heritable factors. The findings from this study showcase how distinct levels of victimization measurement can be harmonized in large-scale studies of health and development.
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