Epigenetics: Genetics Versus Life Experiences

  • Josephine Elia
  • Seth Laracy
  • Jeremy Allen
  • Jenelle Nissley-Tsiopinis
  • Karin Borgmann-Winter
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 9)


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.


ADHD DNA methylation Epigentics Gene transcription Gene–environment 



Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder




Adenine-thymine base pair


Conduct disorder


Cytosine-guanine base pair


Cyclic nucleotide response element binding protein


Dopamine transporter






Erythroid transcription factor




Human Ether-a-go-go


Immediate early gene


International Multicentre ADHD Genetics Project


Monoamine oxidase-B




Medium sized spiny neurons expressing dopamine D1 receptors




Oppositional defiant disorder


Variable number tandem repeat


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Josephine Elia
    • 1
  • Seth Laracy
    • 1
  • Jeremy Allen
    • 1
  • Jenelle Nissley-Tsiopinis
    • 1
  • Karin Borgmann-Winter
    • 1
  1. 1.The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Science CenterPhiladelphiaUSA

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