Unraveling the gene-environment interaction

The field of epigenetics focuses on how the blueprint provided by genes is actualized, examining how experiences influence the way genes manifest themselves or are “expressed.” Using the tools of epigenetics, the studies in the special section move beyond the perspective that either genes or the environment are most important in shaping children’s development, to an intensive focus on how children’s experiences actually affect the way their genes function.

All of the studies in the special section look at the epigenetic mechanism of “gene methylation.” Gene methylation is described by Lester in the special section introduction as a kind of dimmer switch: “If all of the cells associated with a particular gene are unmethylated, the population of cells can produce the amount of protein consistent with a fully active gene. Conversely, if the gene is fully methylated it will produce very little or none of the protein…” resulting in a gene that is switched off.

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Read also: Social adversity early in life may affect the expression of stress-related genes

About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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