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Early-Life Adversity and Suicide Risk: The Role of Epigenetics

Abstract

Suicide is a complex phenomenon, and the neurobiological changes occurring that lead to suicide remain unknown. The early-life period is a critical period of brain development, and it is now well established that early-life adversity, such as childhood abuse, is highly associated with suicide and suicidal behaviour. Research into this association has revealed a number of molecular changes as a consequence of childhood abuse that, in turn, contribute to the increased suicide risk. Among these, epigenetic changes have gained significant attention. Epigenetics refers to the dynamic molecular processes that are involved in regulating gene expression by changing DNA or chromatin chemical composition or physical structure without altering the DNA sequence. The epigenome is responsive to developmental, physiological, and environmental cues, and it is believed that the increased vulnerability to suicide may be mediated by epigenetic alterations triggered by early-life adversity. This chapter summarizes the findings to date focusing on the epigenetic changes associated with early-life adversity and suicide.

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Turecki, G. (2018). Early-Life Adversity and Suicide Risk: The Role of Epigenetics. In: Pompili, M. (eds) Phenomenology of Suicide. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47976-7_4

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