Epigenetics: Genetics Versus Life Experiences

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Abstract

Epigenetics is the field of research that examines alterations in gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in DNA sequence. ADHD is highly heritable; however, epigenetics are considered relevant in potentially explaining the variance not accounted for by genetic influence. In this chapter, some of the well-known processes of epigenetics, such as chromosome organization, DNA methylation, and effects of transcriptional factors are reviewed along with studies examining the role of these processes in the pathophysiology of ADHD. Potential epigenetic factors conferring risk for ADHD at various developmental stages, such as alcohol, tobacco, toxins, medications, and psychosocial stressor are discussed. Animal studies investigating ADHD medications and changes in CNS Gene/Protein Expression are also explored since they provide insight into the neuronal pathways involved in ADHD pathophysiology. The current limited data suggest that identification of the epigenetic processes involved in ADHD is extremely important and may lead to potential interventions that may be applied to modify the expression of deleterious, as well as protective, genes.