Epigenetic Biomarkers for Early-Life Adversity

  • Gustavo TureckiEmail author
Part of the Epigenetics and Human Health book series (EHH)


The early-life environment has important consequences on behavioral development. Specifically, the adversity experienced during sensitive developmental periods in childhood is associated with an increased risk for psychopathology in adulthood, such as mood disorders and mental illness. We have only recently started to uncover some of the mechanisms that may contribute to behavioral changes induced by early-life adversity. Epigenetics modifications regulate gene expression by changing the DNA’s or chromatin’s chemical composition or physical structure without altering its sequence. The epigenome is responsive to the environment, and landmark studies in rodents have shown that variations in early-life environment stably regulate the expression of key gene systems involved in behavioral and emotional responses through epigenetic processes. Early-life adversity could alter behavioral development and increase the vulnerability to psychopathology epigenetic regulation. This chapter will review the findings from human studies that support this hypothesis. We will describe epigenetic changes associated with early-life adversity and will discuss their potential as biomarkers for early-life adversity.


Child abuse Epigenetics Biomarkers Psychopathology 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.McGill Group for Suicide Studies, Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Department of PsychiatryMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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