TOPIC

Mental health

Gene-environment interaction in mental health

Both genetic factors and concomitant environmental exposures affect mental health, and their effects can change each other in a complex way. The environment can influence the way DNA is read and transcribed through chemical changes, thus directly regulating the functional activation of genes (epigenetics). Epigenetics plays a fundamental role in brain plasticity processes.

When genetic effects are modulated by exogenous factors, for example lifestyles, therein lies the opportunities for prevention and promotion of mental health.

The Italian National Institute of Health (ISS) deals with the issue of gene-environment interactions in mental health both using experimental models and with a population approach, for example on twin samples (estimating the heritability of traits in different exposure categories ) and on birth cohorts that investigate the effects of genome interactions and environmental factors on neurobehavioral development.