Anthony P. Auger
Professor and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies
Biology of Brain and Behavior
Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Lab
Epigenetic organization of juvenile brain and behavior:
Do sex differences in neuroepigenetic mechanisms mediate risk or resilience to the impact of early-life adversity on juvenile mental health disorders?
The study of epigenetics allows for the understanding of how early gene x environmental interactions can shape lasting differences in gene function and behavior. As such, juvenile social disorders may result from atypical epigenetic programming of neuronal tissues during critical periods of development. To investigate the epigenetic programming of juvenile social disorders, my research has focused on how brief environmental perturbations in epigenetic processes within the developing brain can have lasting consequences on juvenile social behavior and health disparities. As some juvenile mental health disorders are diagnosed at different rates between males and females, we are examining how sex differences in epigenetic processes underlie risk and resilience to some mental health disorders.
Although there are physiological and behavioral differences between men and women, perhaps the most profound sex differences are in neurological and psychiatric disorders. Sex differences have been reported in depression, schizophrenia, autism, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Currently, it is unclear how these differences occur and to what extent they are different between men and women. We propose that sex differences in these epigenetic factors not only contribute to sexual differentiation of the brain, but that they also confer sexually dimorphic risk and resilience for developing neurological and mental health disorders later in life.
C.J. Auger, D. Coss, A.P. Auger, R. Forbes-Lorman. Epigenetic control of vasopressin expression is maintained by steroid hormones in the adult male rat brain. Proceedings of the National Academy Sciences. 2011 Mar 8;108(10):4242-7. PMCID: PMC3053981
Auger CJ, Auger AP. Permanent and plastic epigenesis in neuroendocrine systems. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology. 2013 Aug;34(3):190-7.
Kigar SL, Auger AP. Epigenetic mechanisms may underlie the etiology of sex differences in mental health risk and resilience. Journal of Neuroendocrinology. 2013. July 10.
Auger, A.P., and Auger, C.J. Sex differences in epigenetic programming of brain differentiation: implications for mental health and disease. Epigenetic development of human health and disease. in Environmental Epigenomics in Health and Disease (Epigenetics and Human Health), Randy Jirtle (Editor), Frederick L. Tyson (Editor); Springer 2013