Epigenetics: How a Child’s Environment Can Change Their Genetic Makeup

Date
24 February 2021
Writer Name
Brain 1st
Topic
Blog

Your inherited genes are an important part of what makes you, you, but new studies show that your environment and childhood experiences can also shape your genetic makeup.

When thinking about your genes, many people often think that your genes are pre-determined and inherited from your parents, such as eye colour or how tall someone grows up to be. Epigenetics proves that inheritance isn’t the only thing that affects your genetics. Early prenatal and/or postnatal experiences and exposures can influence long-term outcomes by chemically altering the structure of genes.

What is epigenetics?

Epigenetics is the study of how environmental influences can physically change whether a gene is expressed or how your body reads a DNA sequence.

How does epigenetics work?

First, we have to understand what genes are. The human body has up to 40 trillion cells, each with its own nucleus. Inside the nucleus are chromosomes, which contain DNA: the molecules that hold genetic information, better known as genes!

During development, DNA collects chemical marks called epigenomes, which decides whether a gene is turned on or off. This collection of marks can be created and changed throughout development, based on the environment and experiences that a child has. The genome of a cell is like the hardware of a computer, while the epigenome is more like the software, telling the hardware what to do.

Developing brains are especially sensitive to epigenetic changes.

Experiences that a child has throughout development can shape their epigenomes, in turn affecting their brain development and architecture. This explains why genetically identical twins can have different behaviours, looks, skills, health, and academic achievement. The first years of development are most impactful as this is where epigenomes can affect how genes provide instructions for neurological and motor development.

In the event of environmental impacts such as a sedentary lifestyle, these epigenomes can lead to physical and mental health challenges, as well as impaired learning outcomes. Though these chemical markers aren’t always permanent, there are cases where epigenetics are passed down generationally.

The best way to create positive epigenome markers through development is through positive relationships, repeated activation of brain circuits, and creating a low-stress environment for children. 

How Brain 1st Can Help

Brain Bootcamp Course:

Brain Bootcamp is carefully constructed based on well-researched functional neurology practices to help enhance brain connectivity and improve function. Completing this program may improve the efficiency of the brain and help to make many of the daily struggles students face easier, improving quality of life!

Primitive Reflex Course:

Primitive reflexes are reflexes that are present during the earliest stages of life and are meant to aid in birth and survival. Once the brain begins to become more complex, these reflexes are overridden and most should no longer be present after the age of 1. There has been increasing research demonstrating that more and more children are actually retaining these reflexes and their physical and emotional development is impacted by this. By moving a student through specific repetitive movements in a certain order (such as that included in the Brain 1st Program), this can be changed and provide an environment for strong development!

Learn more about epigenetics from the Centre of the Developing Child:

Sources:

https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/what-is-epigenetics-and-how-does-it-relate-to-child-development/#epigenetics

https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/early-experiences-can-alter-gene-expression-and-affect-long-term-development/

https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/wp1/

https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/disease/epigenetics.htm

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