The social self.

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Dr Szyf studies mental illness as it may be related to genes but says all such studies have been disappointing. They know there is a relationship between mental illness and the environment. But linking how the environment affects our genes was difficult. Dr Szyf says Psychiatrists knew there must be a missing layer. That layer is epigenetics. The environment affects epigenetics and it triggers genes ON or OFF. Some of these triggers can cause mental illness. We really are creatures influenced by all that is around us from our food, our way of thinking to our stress levels. It turns out it is all about the environment.

The first article is “Experience-Dependent Epigenetic Modifications in the Central Nervous System” by J. David Sweatt. Dr. Sweatt is affiliated with the Department of Neurobiology and Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama.

The second article is “Epigenetic Regulation in Human Brain—Focus on Histone Lysine Methylation” by Schahram Akbarian and Hsien-Sung Huang. The authors are affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry, Brudnick Neuropsychiatric Research Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts. Dr. Huang is also with the Program in Neuroscience, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts.

The third article is “Rett Syndrome and the Impact of MeCP2 Associated Transcriptional Mechanisms on Neurotransmission” by Lisa M. Monteggia and Ege T. Kavalali. Dr. Monteggia is with the Department of Psychiatry while Dr. Kavalali is with the Departments of Neuroscience and Physiology, both at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas.

These articles appear in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 65, Issue 3 (February 1, 2009), published by Elsevier.