Dr. Patrick McGowan discusses the impact early-life events can have on our epigenomes in this recorded webinar.
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Human epidemiological studies and studies of animal models provide many examples by which early life experiences influence health in a long-term manner, a concept known as ‘biological embedding’. Such experiences can have profound impacts during periods of high plasticity in prenatal and early postnatal life. In contrast to the relative stability of gene sequence, epigenetic mechanisms appear, at least to some extent, responsive to these environmental signals. For example, our recent work using high-throughput epigenomic techniques points to large-scale changes in gene pathways in addition to candidate genes involved in the response to psychosocial stress and neuroplasticity. We will discuss examples of nascent research into the influence of early life experience on mental health outcomes, discuss evidence of epigenetic mechanisms that may underlie these effects, and describe challenges for research in this area.