Epigenetics in Mental Health

Mental illnesses are thought to result from the combined influence of genes and environment.

While studies have identified critical risk periods for the development of mental illnesses, the biological bases for these diseases have remained elusive until recently.

The field of epigenetics seeks to identify the biological markers that reflect the interaction of a person’s genes and the environments they experience and therefore holds the promise of yielding fruitful discoveries.

Epigenetic changes can result in the dysregulation of key biological processes such as normal stress response and underlie a number of mental and general health problems.

Importantly, unlike most environmental factors, quantification of epigenetic biomarkers found in the blood can be integrated with other scientific disciplines such as brain imaging to better understand the biology of mental illness. Epigenetic biomarkers may even be capable of predicting risk to future mental illness.

In this talk, Dr. Kaminsky, DIFD-Mach-Gaensslen Chair in Suicide Prevention Research at The Royal, highlights two examples of epigenetic biomarkers associated with two major public health problems, postpartum depression and suicide, and discuss how the implementation of epigenetic biomarker screening alongside predictive analytics may help improve mental illness prevention strategies.

Dr. Zachary Kaminsky
DIFD Mach-Gaensslen Chair in Suicide Prevention Research at The Royal