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Epigenetic Mechanisms and the Risk for PTSD 

Epigenetic Mechanisms and the Risk for PTSD
Epigenetic Mechanisms and the Risk for PTSD
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Michael J. Meaney

, and Rachel Yehuda


This chapter discusses the epigenetic mechanisms involved in individual variation in and persistence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Such mechanisms make it possible to trace vulnerability for PTSD to effects that predate development of PTSD. While some may be genetic in origin, others may involve parental stress occurring pre-conception, in utero changes in the maternal environment contributing to developmental programming, and childhood adversity, resulting in modifications of genes’ contribution to PTSD risk. The chapter discusses epigenetic alterations implicated in hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) function in PTSD that mark increased risk. Unlike the transient alterations in neural, endocrine, or immunological signals that follow exposure to trauma, certain epigenetic markers can be chemically stable over extended periods and can serve as a basis for understanding the persistence of PTSD symptoms. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how epigenetic modification may offer insights into future treatments for PTSD.

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