Throughout our lives, the brain remains flexible and responsive. In addition to receiving signals from the outside world, the brain allows us to form memories and learn from our experiences. Many brain functions are accompanied at the cellular level by changes in gene expression. Epigenetic mechanisms such as histone modification and DNA methylation stabilize gene expression, which is important for long-term storage of information.
Not surprisingly, epigenetic changes are also a part of brain diseases such as mental illness and addiction. Understanding the role of epigenetics in brain disease may open the door to being able to influence it. This may lead to the development of new and more effective treatments for brain diseases.
A segment from a June 2008 lecture given by Dr. Moshe Szyf, Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at McGill University.
Dr. Szyf talks about studies that looked at epigenetic tags in the brains of suicide victims. He describes some of the laboratory methods scientists use to study epigenetics, and goes over some of the evidence that shows an association between certain epigenetic patterns, suicide, and child abuse.