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Epigenetic Marks Lay Foundations for a Child’s Future Abilities
Epigenetic marks on our DNA account for how all cells in the body have the same DNA sequence, inherited from our parents, but nonetheless there are hundreds of different cell types. The body uses epigenetics as its principal control system, to increase or decrease the expression of our genes, and epigenetic processes are known to be important in memory and other aspects of brain function. The new research used umbilical cord tissue collected at birth and identified epigenetic marks in a key brain development gene called HES1 that were linked to the child’s ability to learn and their cognitive performance at ages 4 and 7 years. The findings in two groups of children in Southampton, UK, were accompanied by additional findings in children from Singapore that HES1 epigenetic marks at birth were associated with aspects of socially disruptive behaviour that have previously been linked with a reduced school performance.