Mental health

Gene-environment interaction in mental health

Both genetic factors and environmental exposures affect mental health, and their effects can show complex interactions. Epigenetics plays a fundamental role in brain plasticity processes. The environment can modify DNA transcription, directly regulating the expression of genes (epigenetics).

Epigenetic modulation of genes by lifestyle (e.g. diet, drugs, physical activity etc.) allows for prevention and promotion of mental health.

The Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) deals with the issue of gene-environment interactions in mental health using experimental models, including a population approach (for example estimating the heritability of traits in different exposure categories on twin samples) to investigate the effects of these interactions on neurobehavioral development and at adulthood.