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Epigenetic Basis for the Development of Depression in Children

LESTER, BARRY M. PhD*; CONRADT, ELISABETH PhD*; MARSIT, CARMEN J. PhD

Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology: September 2013 - Volume 56 - Issue 3 - p 556–565
doi: 10.1097/GRF.0b013e318299d2a8
Fetal Origins of Adult Disease

The growing field of epigenetics and human behavior affords an unprecedented opportunity to discover molecular underpinnings of mental health disorders and pave the way for the development of preventive intervention programs. Maternal depression during pregnancy is a serious public health issue and leads to a 4-fold increase in the likelihood that the child will develop depression. We describe how mood disorders, particularly depression, may be shaped by early life stress, programming, and epigenetic processes and pathways showing how these processes could lead to depression in childhood. Implications of this approach to the study of mental health disorders for preventive interventions are discussed.

*Center for the Study of Children at Risk, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, Providence, Rhode Island;

Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and of Community and Family Medicine, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire

Supported by National Institute of Health: R01MH094609 (to C.J.M.) and F32DA032175 (to E.C.).

The authors declare that they have nothing to disclose.

Correspondence: Barry M. Lester, PhD, Center for the Study of Children at Risk, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, Providence, RI. E-mail: barry_lester@brown.edu

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.