The emerging field of epigenetics, the study of how a gene's function or expression can be changed without affecting the gene's basic structure, has forever changed the way we think about our genetic make-up. Epigenetic processes are part of normal development - for example, they occur during cell division. We now know that single nutrients, toxins, prenatal or postnatal environmental exposures can silence or activate a gene without altering its genetic code. No longer can we argue over which has a greater impact, genes or the environment. Both are inextricably linked: environmental events can create biochemical changes that ultimately dictate gene expression, whether at birth or 40 years down the road.
This 2-day conference will be one of the first to focus on a frontier epigenetics field: Behavioral Epigenetics, i.e. the quest to understand how environmental factors can affect alterations in behavior. Epigenetic effects have been studied in animal models of depression, addiction, schizophrenia and neuro-developmental disorders. Human studies on epigenetics and behavior are being conducted as well. Some psychoactive drugs, such as cocaine or anti-psychotics, also cause changes in some of the co-factors involved in this genetic regulatory system. With an understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in epigenetic modulation, it might be possible to develop targeted therapies for those individuals in whom it malfunctions.
Discussions originating from this symposium, their dissemination through enduring materials, and the collaborations emerging from this forum will foster advancements in the field of Behavioral Epigenetics and will improve our understanding of 1) the fundamental mechanisms that shape development, and 2) individual vulnerability and resilience to adverse behavioral outcome.
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Continuing Education Information
This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and The New York Academy of Sciences. The Alpert Medical School is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
This activity is being sponsored by the Massachusetts Psychological Association (MPA) and The New York Academy of Sciences. MPA is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. MPA maintains responsibility for this program and its content
Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University designates this educational activity for a maximum of 14 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should only claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.
The Massachusetts Psychological Association (MPA) designates this educational activity for a maximum of 14 APA Credits. Psychologists should attend the conference in its entirety to receive the credit - APA does not allow partial credit.
Participants in this educational activity will:
• Explore the field of epigenetics, role in normal embryological and fetal development, basic mechanisms and processes including biochemical, cellular, gene transcription and expression, relations to fetal programming and neural plasticity, and better understand non-human and human studies of medical outcomes.
• Improve their understanding of behavioral effects of epigenetic processes and integrate this knowledge into their research and/or medical practice (including both prevention and therapy). Behavioral outcomes include learning, memory, mental illness, normal development and developmental psychopathology.
• Take into account prenatal as well as postnatal factors that may produce epigenetic changes in behavior, and the intergenerational transfer and reversibility of these effects when assessing behavioral outcomes.
• Better their knowledge regarding the implications of pharmacotherapy.
• Design and implement changes in medical practice so that epigenetics can be considered in the prevention and treatment of behavioral alterations.
• Identify pending questions, more gaps in this field, and steps moving forward.
• Identify new multidisciplinary research opportunities and collaborations.
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