The plasticity of development: How knowledge of epigenetics may advance understanding of eating disorders

Authors

  • Michael Strober PhD, ABPP,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles
    2. Stewart & Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA, Los Angeles, California
    • Correspondence to: Michael Strober, UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, 760 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90024. E-mail: mstrober@mednet.ucla.edu

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  • Tara Peris PhD,

    1. Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles
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  • Howard Steiger PhD

    1. Douglas Institute Eating Disorders Program, Quebec, Canada
    2. Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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  • Supported by the Resnick Endowed Chair in Eating Disorders.

ABSTRACT

Objective

To depict the processes through which animals and human beings engage their environment in continuously evolving states of conflict and cooperation.

Method

Descriptive literature review.

Results

Life history outcomes are more relative than they are absolute. Genetic variations play a crucial role, but heavily influencing behavioral outcomes, psychopathology included, are external cues that epigenetically remodel DNA along experience-dependent signaling pathways. The result is phenotypes that either optimize adjustment, or constrain it.

Discussion

Knowledge of epigenetic mechanisms may help shed new light on the origin of maturational phenotypes underlying eating disorders and why adjusting treatments to these realities warrants our attention. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2014; 47:696–704)

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