Social experiences can have a persistent effect on biological processes leading to phenotypic diversity. Variation in gene regulation has emerged as a mechanism through which the interplay between DNA and environments leads to the biological encoding of these experiences. Epigenetic modifications-molecular pathways through which transcription is altered without altering the underlying DNA sequence-play a critical role in the normal process of development and are being increasingly explored as a mechanism linking environmental experiences to long-term biobehavioral outcomes. In this review, evidence implicating epigenetic factors, such as DNA methylation and histone modifications, in the link between social experiences occurring during the postnatal period and in adulthood and altered neuroendocrine and behavioral outcomes will be highlighted. In addition, the role of epigenetic mechanisms in shaping variation in social behavior and the implications of epigenetics for our understanding of the transmission of traits across generations will be discussed. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.
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