The field of neuroepigenetics has a long and rich history, beginning with the discovery of experience-induced DNA modifications in the brain and other landmark observations over the past 40 years by Vanyushin and Ashapkin (Chapter 1), and extended by the recent discovery of downstream oxidative derivatives of 5-methylcytosine and the elucidation of their functional roles in brain development as investigated and discussed by Li and Wei (Chapter 2), Kang et al. (Chapter 3), and Fasolino et al. (Chapter 4). This information has led to the establishment of links between DNA modification and cognition and behavior related to neuropsychiatric disease described by Mukamel and Lister (Chapter 5) and Day (Chapter 6). Therefore, it has been unequivocally demonstrated that DNA modifications are dynamic and reversible across the life span and that they play an important role in the regulation of gene expression in both the normal and the diseased brain. Together with new insights regarding the mitochondrial neuroepigenome, as introduced by Suzuki et al. (Chapter 7), and the application of recent technical advances in DNA sequencing, as discussed by Feng and Nestler (Chapter 8), these new lines of research represent the leading edge in the quest to understand gene-environment interactions and how they influence the neuroepigenetic regulation of gene expression and its impact on subsequent behavioral adaptation. It is a remarkable time for neuroscience. As discussed by Marshall and Bredy (Chapter 9), armed with new technology and freedom from the constraints of dogma, we embark on entirely new directions in the study of DNA modifications in the brain. The work described herein serves to usher in this exciting new era.
Timothy W. Bredy