Event Date/Time: Oct 29, 2010 End Date/Time: Oct 30, 2010
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The emerging field of epigenetics, the study of how a gene's function or expression can be changed without affecting the gene's basic structure, has forever changed the way we think about our genetic make-up. Epigenetic processes are part of normal development - for example, they occur during cell division. We now know that single nutrients, toxins, prenatal or postnatal environmental exposures can silence or activate a gene without altering its genetic code. No longer can we argue over which has a greater impact, genes or the environment. Both are inextricably linked: environmental events can create biochemical changes that ultimately dictate gene expression, whether at birth or 40 years down the road.

This 2-day conference will be one of the first to focus on a frontier epigenetics field: Behavioral Epigenetics, i.e. the quest to understand how environmental factors can affect alterations in behavior. Epigenetic effects have been studied in animal models of depression, addiction, schizophrenia and neuro-developmental disorders. Human studies on epigenetics and behavior are being conducted as well. Some psychoactive drugs, such as cocaine or anti-psychotics, also cause changes in some of the co-factors involved in this genetic regulatory system. With an understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in epigenetic modulation, it might be possible to develop targeted therapies for those individuals in whom it malfunctions.

Discussions originating from this symposium, their dissemination through enduring materials, and the collaborations emerging from this forum will foster advancements in the field of Behavioral Epigenetics and will improve our understanding of 1) the fundamental mechanisms that shape development, and 2) individual vulnerability and resilience to adverse behavioral outcome.