What Influence Does the Environment Have on Our Mental Health?
The root of behavioral disorders and mental illnesses are often given a specific spotlight in regards to the field of genetics. The significance of the nature is just as important as the nurture aspect: as to how environment activates or represses genes. Therefore, I have taken on the role to effectively communicate the significance of this topic and put forth the opportunity to showcase the greatness of epigenetics.
So, epigenetics... This may be a new term for some, and for others it might already be something they are familiar with. Let's have a brief overview of what this really means. There are biological mechanisms (methylation, histone modification, acetylation, etc.) that cause changes through modifying gene expression, but there isn't a change to the genetic code itself. These mechanisms can lead to certain endpoints: schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer's disease, drug addition, etc.. and these endpoints are influenced by specific factors that activate these mechanisms: developmental, environment, drugs, aging, diet, etc.. So by exploring this topic we grow to learn the many ways in which genes can be expressed.
We come to really focus in on how gene expression is influenced by the environment and experience, which ultimately results in potential differences in our behavior, personality, and mental health. This then led me on a path to emphasize the importance of how NURTURE shapes our NATURE to an even wider audience outside the field of science.
I then thought, a great platform to illuminate this topic on behavioral epigenetics would be to create a blog and submit individual entries that focus in on a specific behavioral aspect and how it is influenced epigenetically: mechanisms that produce these changes in gene expression that cause the eventual endpoint:
Psychological: Anxiety and stress
Mental health: Drug addiction, eating disorders, schizophrenia, etc.
I also found it important to include personal stories from fellow scientists that highlight the impact these behavioral and mental disorders have on our mental health and overall wellbeing. The importance of mental health is not given the attention it truly deserves. The ways in which it can be debilitating and stifling can severely change a person and their lifestyle.
It is through understanding this connection that great significance towards emphasizing the importance of proper treatment for mental illness can be furthered. Through designing treatment strategies that actually function to help the individual rather than inhibit them.
To see my progress so far, please check out my blog: