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A Life Course Approach to Mental Disorders$
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Karestan C. Koenen, Sasha Rudenstine, Ezra Susser, and Sandro Galea

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199657018

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657018.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 01 August 2021

Epigenetic influences on mental illness over the life course

Epigenetic influences on mental illness over the life course

(p.238) Chapter 22 Epigenetic influences on mental illness over the life course
A Life Course Approach to Mental Disorders

Monica Uddin

Levent Sipahi

Oxford University Press

Lifetime experiences have long been recognized as important determinants of mental health and illness; however, the biological mechanisms through which social exposures influence mental health, and how these mechanisms interact with underlying genetic variation to become physiologically and psychologically manifest have, until recently, remained unknown. Epigenetic modifications made throughout the life course provide a plausible and, increasingly, empirically supported explanatory mechanism. This chapter focuses primarily on the widespread mood anxiety disorders post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression in order to illustrate the current understanding of the role of epigenetics in risk for, and resiliency to, mental disorders. Specific topics include: a description of the basic molecular biology of epigenetic marks; a model of epigenetic influence on mental health over the life course; literature review of animal models foundational to the understanding of epigenetic factors in mental health; review of recent work in human populations demonstrating epigenetic associations with mental illness and related phenotypes at both the gene and genome levels; discussion of how PTSD may be used as a model for the elucidation of epigenetic influences on mental health over the life course; and discussion of the future potential of epigenetic research in mental health. It is argued that risk for, and resilience to, PTSD and depression are determined in part by epigenetic states that, in response to lived experiences, are modifiable throughout the life course.

Keywords:   DNA methylation, histone modifications, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, animal models, early life adversity, population health

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