A team led by a Johns Hopkins researcher has uncovered evidence suggesting that changes in behavioral patterns are linked to changes in chemical tags on genes, a discovery that has important implications for human health.
Using tests conducted on bees, a team led by Andrew Feinberg, a professor of molecular medicine at Johns Hopkins and director of the Center for Epigenetics at Hopkins' Institute for Basic Biomedical Science, found that marks on DNA were directly related to specific behaviors and that when behaviors changed, so did the DNA marks. The team's findings were published online on Sept. 16 by Nature Neuroscience.
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The researchers say they hope their results may begin to shed light on complex behavioral issues in humans, such as learning, memory, stress response and mood disorders, which all involve interactions between genetic and epigenetic components similar to those in the study. A person's underlying genetic sequence is acted upon by epigenetic tags, which may be affected by external cues to change in ways that create stable—but reversible—behavioral patterns.