INTRODUCTION: Recruiting participants for research studies can be challenging. Many studies fall short of their target or must prolong recruitment to reach it. We examined recruitment and retention strategies and report lessons learned in a behavioral intervention developmental trial to encourage healthy pregnancy weight gain and stress reduction in low-income overweight pregnant women.
This paper describes the results of a series of studies showing that variations in mother-pup interactions program the development of individual differences in behavioral and endocrine stress responses in the rat. These effects are associated with altered expression of genes in brain regions, such as the amygdala, hippocampus, and hypothalamus, that regulate the expression of stress responses. Studies from evolutionary biology suggest that such "maternal effects" are common and often associated with variations in the quality of the maternal environment.
The genome is programmed by the epigenome. Two of the fundamental components of the epigenome are chromatin structure and covalent modification of the DNA molecule itself by methylation. DNA methylation patterns are sculpted during development and it has been a long held belief that they remain stable after birth in somatic tissues. Recent data suggest that DNA methylation is dynamic later in life in postmitotic cells such as neurons and thus potentially responsive to different environmental stimuli throughout life.
Early life stress (child and adolescent abuse, neglect and trauma) induces robust alterations in emotional and social functioning resulting in enhanced risk for the development of psychopathologies such as mood and aggressive disorders. Here, an overview is given on recent findings in primate and rodent models of early life stress, demonstrating that chronic deprivation of early maternal care as well as chronic deprivation of early physical interactions with peers are profound risk factors for the development of inappropriate aggressive behaviors.
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines
Experiences during early development profoundly affect development of the central nervous system (CNS) to impart either risk for or resilience to later psychopathology. Work in the developmental neuroscience field is providing compelling data that epigenetic marking of the genome may underlie aspects of this process. Experiments in rodents continue to show that experiences during sensitive periods of development influence DNA methylation patterns of several genes.
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
OBJECTIVE: Child and adolescent psychiatry is rife with examples of the sustained effects of early experience on brain function. The study of behavioral genetics provides evidence for a relation between genomic variation and personality and with the risk for psychopathology. A pressing challenge is that of conceptually integrating findings from genetics into the study of personality without regressing to arguments concerning the relative importance of genomic variation versus nongenomic or environmental influences.
Neuropsychopharmacology: Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
Parental care influences development across mammals. In humans such influences include effects on phenotypes, such as stress reactivity, which determine individual differences in the vulnerability for affective disorders. Thus, the adult offspring of rat mothers that show an increased frequency of pup licking/grooming (ie, high LG mothers) show increased hippocampal glucocorticoid receptor (GR) expression and more modest hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal responses to stress compared with the offspring of low LG mothers.
Two major environmental developments have occurred in mammalian evolution which have impacted on the genetic and epigenetic regulation of brain development. The first of these was viviparity and development of the placenta which placed a considerable burden of time and energy investment on the matriline, and which resulted in essential hypothalamic modifications.
Quality of maternal care in infancy is an important contributing factor in the development of behavior and psychopathology. One way maternal care could affect behavioral trajectories is through environmentally induced epigenetic alterations within brain regions known to play prominent roles in cognition, emotion regulation, and stress responsivity. Whereas such research has largely focused on the hippocampus or hypothalamus, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) has only just begun to receive attention.
European Psychiatry: The Journal of the Association of European Psychiatrists
BACKGROUND: There is debate as to whether maternal tobacco use in pregnancy is related to offspring behaviour later on. We tested this association examining multiple aspects of children's behaviour at age 5 and accounting for parental smoking outside of pregnancy, as well as child and family characteristics. METHODS: Data come from a prospective community based birth cohort study (EDEN; n=1113 families in France followed since pregnancy in 2003-2005 until the child's 5th birthday). Maternal tobacco use in pregnancy was self-reported.