Neuroscience Bulletin

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 141–159 | Cite as

Genetics and epigenetics of circadian rhythms and their potential roles in neuropsychiatric disorders

  • Chunyu Liu
  • Michael Chung


Circadian rhythm alterations have been implicated in multiple neuropsychiatric disorders, particularly those of sleep, addiction, anxiety, and mood. Circadian rhythms are known to be maintained by a set of classic clock genes that form complex mutual and self-regulatory loops. While many other genes showing rhythmic expression have been identified by genome-wide studies, their roles in circadian regulation remain largely unknown. In attempts to directly connect circadian rhythms with neuropsychiatric disorders, genetic studies have identified gene mutations associated with several rare sleep disorders or sleep-related traits. Other than that, genetic studies of circadian genes in psychiatric disorders have had limited success. As an important mediator of environmental factors and regulators of circadian rhythms, the epigenetic system may hold the key to the etiology or pathology of psychiatric disorders, their subtypes or endophenotypes. Epigenomic regulation of the circadian system and the related changes have not been thoroughly explored in the context of neuropsychiatric disorders. We argue for systematic investigation of the circadian system, particularly epigenetic regulation, and its involvement in neuropsychiatric disorders to improve our understanding of human behavior and disease etiology.


epigenetics circadian rhythms neuropsychiatry 


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Copyright information

© Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Medical Genetics of ChinaChangshaChina
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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