Epigenetics and Child Development

Epigenetics is an emerging area of scientific research that shows how environmental influences, children’s experiences actually affect the expression of their genes.

During development, the DNA that makes up our genes accumulates chemical marks that determine how much or how little of the gene is expressed. This collection of chemical marks is known as the “epigenome”. The different experiences children have rearrange those chemical marks. This explains why genetically identical twins can exhibit different behaviours, skills, health and achievement. This means the old idea that genes are “set in stone” has been disproven. Nature vs. Nurture is no longer a debate. It’s nearly always both.

How does epigenetics have lifelong impacts?

  • The genes children inherit from their biological parents provide information that guides their development. For example, how tall they could eventually become or the kind of temperament they could have.
  • When experiences during development rearrange the epigenetic marks that govern gene expression, they can change whether and how genes release the information they carry.
  • Thus, the epigenome can be affected by positive experiences, such as supportive relationships and opportunities for learning or negative influences, such as environmental toxins or stress life circumstances which leave a unique epigenetic “signature” on the genes.
  • These signatures can be temporary or permanent and both types affect how easily the genes are switched on or off. Recent research demonstrates that there may be ways to reverse certain negative changes and restore healthy functioning. But the very best strategy is to support responsive relationships and reduce stress to build strong brains from the beginning.

Young brains are sensitive to epigenetic changes.

Experiences very early in life, when the brain is developing most rapidly, cause epigenetic adaptations that influence whether, when, and how genes release their instructions for building future capacity for health, skills, and resilience. That’s why it’s crucial to provide supportive and nurturing experiences for young children in the earliest years.

Services such as high quality health care for all pregnancy women, infants and toddlers, as well as support for new parents and caregivers can quite literally affect the chemistry around children’s genes. Supportive relationships and rich learning experiences generate positive epigenetic signatures that activate genetic potential.

Reference : https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/what-is-epigenetics-and-how-does-it-relate-to-child-development/

7 Comments Add yours

  1. kittysverses says:

    Thank you for this interesting post. šŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. GS says:

      Glad you liked it. I was wondering if it was too technical. Epigenetics ā€“ It’s not just genes that make us. It works through chemical tags added to chromosomes that in effect switch genes on or off.

      Like

      1. kittysverses says:

        I liked it, it was interesting and informative. šŸ™‚ Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. GS says:

        Most welcome. Glad you liked it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. dsbhat says:

    Very interesting and informative! The adult brain too was once considered incapable of making new connections after a certain number of years, but now we are aware of neuroplasticity. It should not be too surprising that our genes have similar capabilities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. GS says:

      Yes Agreed. Recent work in the field of neurobiology has revealed that epigenetic processes are essential for complex brain functions. For example, recent studies showed that several enzymes that modify DNA or histone proteins are essential elements of signaling pathways, allowing proper neuronal signaling for learning and memory.

      Liked by 2 people

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