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Epigenetics - Guest Lecture

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University of Lethbridge
PSYC 2110
Fangfang Li

Early Experience and the Developing Brain - Guest Lecture January-28-13 11:57AM Plasticity: TheMalleable Brain - The ability of the brain to change with differenttypes of experiences ○ We can "learn from ourexperiences andthat should allowus to engagemore appropriatebehavioural responsesin future sitautions - But notall brain plasticity is positive -> habits Brain Changes Behaviouralchanges Experience(Environment Naturevs Nurture - No longer a debate ○ Environmentleaves its mark on ourgenomeandcan modulatefuture geneexpression in a sometimes heritablefashion ○ The studyof howenvironmentleaves its footprinton the genomefalls into the domain ofEpigenetics Harry Harlow-> early work on surrogatemothers - Something veryimportantaboutearly experiencethatshapes howthe brain works in later life Epigenetics - Regers to changesin gene expressionoften mediated by environmentalinfluences thatare stable between cell divisionsand sometimesbetween generations butDONOT involved changesin the underlying DNAsequence ofthe organism ○ If we hada change in the underlyingDNA sequence-> mutation ○ Talkingaboutexperiences leavinga mark - How doesthathappen? ○ Methyl groups-> experiencecan addsubtractthese - Methylation RNA Polymerase □  Methyl group,no accessto group  No methyl group,RNA P cancome in, read the gene, mRNA,go off,and eventuallylead to protein beingmade Sex determininggenes FunctionalandAnatomicalSex Differences Gonodaldifferentiation in CorticalPlasticity Hormones Embryo Neonate Puberty Adult Experience Males andFemalesare fundamentally differentin their brains TotalVolumeof Brain: Girls peakat 10 yearsold Boys peakat 15 yearsold - Lagin development Our brains continueto develop until early 30's - Submita proposallookingatyoungadults,and would still be consideredchild research Factorsinfluencingbrain development: - The developingcortex is altered by manypre- and post-natalevents indlucing: 1. Lifestyle (Diet, Sleep) - Exercise,Sensory,Experiences 2. Relationships - Frontallove developmentis a long process beginning prenatallyandcontinuing wellinto adulthood ○ Altered by a wide rangeof positiveand negativeexperiences - Frontallobe functions: □ Memory □ Creativity, □ Flexibility □ Self-control ○ In Utero and duringlactation,Maternalexperiencehasa majorinfluenceon baby - Somebrain areasare very slowto mature - andthus,are vulnerableto many experiences □ Still a lot of learningthat happensin utero □ Thingsthat happento the motherinfluences baby  Ex. Becomesfamiliar with type of musicmother plays ◊ Recognize stories  Somelanguagedevelopmentmay occur - Psychoactivedrugsalsoalter the brain □ Drugsinclude:  Nicotine +  Caffein +  Cocaine +  Antidepressants +  Valium+  Marijuana+  Morphine+  Antipsychoticsand more  + and prenatally □ Consider: 1. The interactionwith sex differences 2. Thesedrugsalter brain development a) 20% of pregnantwomen are on "heavy"drugs;99%on caffeine - Can alter behaviorof baby - Complexhousing - Tactile stimulation  Postnatal,Prenatal - Exercise(moderate) Prenatal  Prenatal ◊ Brains havemore connections ◊ The animalshaveenhancedcognitive andmotor behavior ◊ Enhancedability to controlstressresponse - Petting a rat with a brush ->affects babies(thosewith brain injuries did better) - Can changethe outcomesof the babies - Thereis a sex differencein how they respondedto the experiences ○ Paternalpreconceptionexperience - Boys bornto alcoholicfathers4X morelikely to becomealcoholics - FASDchildrenhavebeen bornto non-drinkingmothers,alcoholicfathers - PaternalSmoking:leukemia,other cancers - Compromised IQ ○ Experienceof the father changemethylationpatternsin the brain in specificregions (hippocampusand frontalcortex) - Paternalstress ○ Fatherstressed twicedaily for 0.5 houron an elevated platformfor 1 month prior to mating
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