Epigenetics of the developing and aging brain: Mechanisms that regulate onset and outcomes of brain reorganization

Eliza R. Bacon, Roberta Diaz Brinton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Brain development is a life-long process that encompasses several critical periods of transition, during which significant cognitive changes occur. Embryonic development, puberty, and reproductive senescence are all periods of transition that are hypersensitive to environmental factors. Rather than isolated episodes, each transition builds upon the last and is influenced by consequential changes that occur in the transition before it. Epigenetic marks, such as DNA methylation and histone modifications, provide mechanisms by which early events can influence development, cognition, and health outcomes. For example, parental environment influences imprinting patterns in gamete cells, which ultimately impacts gene expression in the embryo which may result in hypersensitivity to poor maternal nutrition during pregnancy, raising the risks for cognitive impairment later in life. This review explores how epigenetics induce and regulate critical periods, and also discusses how early environmental interactions prime a system towards a particular health outcome and influence susceptibility to disease or cognitive impairment throughout life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)503-516
Number of pages14
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Aging
  • Andropause
  • B-vitamins
  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetics
  • Estrogen
  • Histone modification
  • Menopause
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Neurodevelopmental
  • One-carbon metabolism
  • Perimenopause
  • Puberty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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