Epigenetic Nurture Essay

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Epigenetics is defined as the study of the changes in heritable phenotype that do not involve the DNA sequence alterations (González-Pardo, 2013). In psychology, epigenetics refers to the study of the roles that the genetics as well as environment take in behavior shaping (Cacioppo & Freberg, 2018). In other words, the psychology perspective of epigenetics is chiefly concerned with the study of how nurture (experiences and upbringing), shapes and affects behavior or rather the subject’s hereditary nature (Cacioppo & Freberg, 2018). In most cases, the term epigenetics is used to denote the changes which affect the gene expression and activity as well as change in any heritable phenotype. Such effects on the physiological and cellular phenotypic traits may be part of the normal development program or result from environmental or external factors (Cacioppo & Freberg, 2018). Therefore, epigenetics’ standard definition requires heritability of these alterations either in the progeny of organisms or of cells (Lerner, & Fisher, 2013). The paper looks at epigenetic modification, epigenetics nature and nurture its application in psychology and how beneficial it is in my life.

Epigenetic Modification

DNA methylation

DNA methylation is an example of epigenetic modification. Transcription repression is well-associated with the DNA methylation; this process involves the DNA alteration through the addition of a methyl group with the results being a change of the chromatin which silences the gene expression by creating a compact structure (Lerner, & Fisher, 2013). Even though the information concerning how gene transcription is influenced by the DNA methylation is slowly being determined, it is obvious or rather known that modifying the protein-DNA interactions is the basic mechanism.

Histone modifications

The model behind histone modification is the fact that gene transcription in the mammalian cells takes place in the chromatin context and not on a naked DNA. It is due to this fact that any modification to the histones and the chromatin itself impacts the gene expression. This modification has the different kind which includes phosphorylation, methylation, ubiquitination, and acetylation and they are involved in the modification of histone H4 and H3 tails. The core histones are formed by composing an unstructured N terminal and a globular C-terminal domain (Lerner, & Fisher, 2013).

Figure 1: Epigenetic Mechanism (Lerner, & Fisher, 2013).


Epigenetics Nature and Nurture

According to Tammen, Friso, & Choi (2013), epigenetics is the reason behind how nurture shapes nature depending on the lifestyle of an individual. Even though identical twins have the same genes, they are to some extent un-alike in their appearance, health, personality, and behavior as individuals and they tend to grow more different as they age. Tammen, Friso, & Choi (2013), indicates that due to epigenetics processes, the environment is able to regulate the genomes of an organism resulting in individual differences in behavior, cognition, physiology, and appearance. This is an affirmation that nature nurtures individuals given that twins develop some differences over time. Furthermore, the lifestyle of an individual has some effects on epigenetics. Epigenetic changes due to exercise influences performance. A recent study on skeletal muscles established that there were some changes in DNA methylation prior to and in the aftermath of an acute bout of exercise (Ntanasis-Stathopoulos et al., 2013). More studies have linked physical exercises to the methylation of particular genes which are related to the chronic disease’s risk factors (Ntanasis-Stathopoulos et al., 2013). Furthermore, the colors of plants are said to contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which promote protection against oxidative stress through gene expression of immunity (Su et al., 2012).

Application of Epigenetic in Psychology

Early Life Stress

Research indicates that individuals who carried two or one copy of the serotonin transporter promoter polymorphism’s short allele exhibit higher chances of suffering from adult suicidality and depression if they happen to be exposed to maltreatment during their childhood contrary to those who have equal ELS exposure but with long allele homozygotes (Lerner, & Fisher, 2013).


In preclinical studies, the occurrence of additive phenotypes’ transgenerational epigenetic inheritance has been noted (González-Pardo, 2013). Addiction, in this case, has been a disorder of the reward system of the brain which comes about due to neuroepigenetic, and transcriptional mechanisms besides occurring over time from additive stimulus’ chronic high levels of exposure such as gambling, sexual intercourse, cocaine, and morphine (González-Pardo, 2013).

Depression and Anxiety

Research has also indicated that there is the existence of epigenetic inheritance of phenotypes that are related to depression (González-Pardo, 2013). In a preclinical study that used mice, there have been reports of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance of phenotypes that are related to anxiety (González-Pardo, 2013).

Fear Conditioning

Research carried out through mice revealed that an offspring could inherit certain conditional fears from the parents (Lerner, & Fisher, 2013). One of the experiments involved conditioning a mouse to fear acetophenone’s strong scent by accompanying the smell with an electric shock. With time, it was observed that the mice learned to fear acetophenone’s scent by its own and in spite of the offspring having not experienced the electric shock themselves, they displayed the fear for the acetophenone’s scent (Lerner, & Fisher, 2013). This epigenetic change went on to a period of two generations of the mice without the introduction of the shock experiment (Lerner, & Fisher, 2013).

Benefits of Epigenetic in my Life

Understanding the dynamics of epigenetics is vital to me for the reasons that I have been enlightened that my lifestyle could result in aberration in my genomic makeup and more so, this could be passed on to my offspring and future generation. This has taught me that I have a responsibility to my future kid’s children. If I happen to lead a careless lifestyle such as unhealthy diet intake and smoking, I can bring about epigenetic variations which would not be detrimental to me, but also to the future generations when it is passed on to my children.

In conclusion

In summary, epigenetic has several modifications through which there are different applications in psychology as well as beneficial to my life. The two major medications are DNA methylation and histone modifications. In psychology, epigenetic has several different applications which include fear conditioning, depression and anxiety, addiction, and early life stress. This information is beneficial to me for the reasons that it shapes my attitude towards lifestyle by understanding that I not only have a responsibility for the future generations but also could improve my life longevity and health my lifestyles.


Cacioppo, J., & Freberg, L. (2018). Discovering psychology: The science of mind. Cengage Learning.

González-Pardo, H. (2013). Epigenetics and its implications for psychology. Psicothema, 25(1), 3-12.

Lerner, R. M., & Fisher, C. B. (2013). Evolution, Epigenetics, and Application in Developmental Science.

Ntanasis-Stathopoulos, J., Tzanninis, J. G., Philippou, A., & Koutsilieris, M. (2013). Epigenetic regulation on gene expression induced by physical exercise. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact, 13(2), 133-46.

Su, L. J., Mahabir, S., Ellison, G. L., McGuinn, L. A., & Reid, B. C. (2012). Epigenetic contributions to the relationship between cancer and dietary intake of nutrients, bioactive food components, and environmental toxicants. Frontiers in genetics, 2, 91.

Tammen, S. A., Friso, S., & Choi, S. W. (2013). Epigenetics: the link between nature and nurture. Molecular aspects of medicine, 34(4), 753-764.

August 04, 2023

Addiction Biology

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