Neural and behavioral epigenetics; what it is, and what is hype

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Abstract

The ability to examine epigenetic mechanisms in the brain has become readily available over the last 20 years. This has led to an explosion of research and interest in neural and behavioral epigenetics. Of particular interest to researchers, and indeed the lay public, is the possibility that epigenetic processes, such as changes in DNA-methylation and histone modification, may provide a biochemical record of environmental effects. This has led to some fascinating insights into how molecular changes in the brain can control behavior. However, some of this research has also attracted controversy and, as is dealt with here, some overblown claims. This latter problem is partly linked to the shifting sands of what is defined as ‘epigenetics’. In this review, I provide an overview of what exactly epigenetics is, and what is hype, with the aim of opening up a debate as to how this exciting field moves forward.

What exactly is behavioral and neural epigenetics? We need to debate the definition, before running the risk of losing all meaning.

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