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Scientists explore the mind with epigenomic maps

Comprehensive mapping of the human brain epigenome uncovers large-scale changes that take place during the formation of brain circuitry.

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Ground-breaking research by scientists from The University of Western Australia and the US, published in Science, has provided an unprecedented view of the epigenome during brain development.

High-resolution mapping of the epigenome has discovered unique patterns that emerge during the generation of brain circuitry in childhood.

While the ‘genome’ can be thought of as the instruction manual that contains the blueprints (genes) for all of the components of our cells and our body, the ‘epigenome’ can be thought of as an additional layer of information on top of our genes that change the way they are used.

“These new insights will provide the foundation for investigating the role the epigenome plays in learning, memory formation, brain structure and mental illness,” says UWA Professor Ryan Lister, a genome biologist in the ARC Centre for Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, and a corresponding author in this new study.

Joseph R. Ecker, senior author of this study, and professor and director of the Genomic Analysis Laboratory at California’s Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, said the research shows that the period during which the neural circuits of the brain mature is accompanied by a parallel process of large-scale reconfiguration of the neural epigenome.

A healthy brain is the product of a long period of developmental...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.