PerspectiveNeuroscience

Early life experience shapes neural genome

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Science  23 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6382, pp. 1330-1331
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat3977

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Summary

The brain is constantly changing in response to environmental experiences throughout life. Mounting evidence from animal and human studies suggests that brain development and behavior are influenced by early life experiences. Several compelling experimental models have been developed to study the effect of early life experiences on the brain, such as stress, exposure to toxins, availability of nutrients, adversity, and quality of maternal care (1). The relationship between genes and environment on the brain and how they affect behavior has been a long-standing issue. Can the genome of individual brain cells be changed by environmental factors? If so, which types of genetic changes can result? What is the molecular basis of this genetic diversity? What are the physiological implications? On page 1395 of this issue, Bedrosian et al. (2) explore one possibility for how neuronal genomes can exhibit plasticity in response to environmental factors during early life, providing integrative evidence for the effect of early maternal care on the genomes of neurons.