Abuse and neglect of children causes epigenetic changes in child’s DNA.

Court of Appeal, Superior Court and Supreme Court News

Epigenetics is defined as the changes in gene expression in response to the environment. That environment includes child abuse and neglect. A new study from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, published in the Child Development journal, illustrates the impact of abusive and neglectful parenting to changes in the glucocorticoid receptor gene.

This particular gene is responsible for social functioning and health. The researchers examined the DNA methylation activity in 56 children aged 11-14. Fifty percent of the children had been physically abused. The findings of this study reveal that maltreated children had increased methylation on several sites of the glucocorticoid receptor gene, also known as NR3C1.  The changes occurred on the section of the gene that is critical for nerve growth factor which is an important part of healthy brain development.The gene also affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in rodents. Disruptions of this system in the brain would make it difficult for…

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