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Epigenetic processes can explain some of the epidemiological associations between environmental exposure and disease, particularly when the exposure occurs at a critical delopmental stage.
Epigenetics, a cellular mechanism once considered to be stable after development, has now been found to be a dynamic process that occurs in fully differentiated, post-mitotic cells of central nervous system in response to environmental signals.
Despite significant progress in molecular epigenetic research and its enormous potential, there are still considerable challenges to overcome before we can fully understand the role of epigenetic processes in brain function and behavior. For instance, what comprises a ‘normal’ brain epigenome and what is the degree of region- and cellular-specificity of epigenetic landscapes in the brain? How do the multiple layers of epigenetic information interact and change over time? How common is meiotic epigenetic heritability and what role it may play in complex psychiatric disease? To what extent is the epigenome plastic and malleable in response to environmental influences? This volume demonstrates that such questions can now be explored in an experimental molecular biology laboratory. While the community is only just starting to acknowledge the importance of epigenetic processes in the brain, there is no doubt that numerous breakthrough discoveries in brain and behavioral epigenetics will be made in the decades to come.