Epigenetic control of the development of the autonomic nervous system in human infants.


The development of the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system is shaped by interactions between genetics and the early environment. Such interactions are often mediated by epigenetic modification. This project will examine how the development of autonomic reactivity is underpinned by epigenetic changes in genes that regulate the autonomic nervous system. The student will examine the early development of peripheral indices of autonomic reactivity (heart rate variability and skin conductance) in a large and diverse group of young infants tested longitudinally, and relate these indices to epigenetic modification measured repeatedly over the first year of life.


Holmboe, K., Nemoda, Z., Fearon, R.M., Sasvari-Szekely, M., Johnson, M.H. (2011) Dopamine D4 receptor and serotonin transporter gene effects on the longitudinal development of infant temperament. Genes, Brain and Behavior, DOI: 10.1111/j.1601-183X.2010.00669.x


Johnson, M.H., Gliga, T., Jones, E.J.H., and Charman, T. (2015) Infant development, autism and ADHD: Early pathways to emerging disorders. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56, 228-247


Wong, C. C. Y., Caspi, A., Williams, B., Craig, I. W., Houts, R., Ambler, A., ... & Mill, J. (2010). A longitudinal study of epigenetic variation in twins. Epigenetics,5(6), 516-526.


Wong, C. C. Y., Meaburn, E. L., Ronald, A., Price, T. S., Jeffries, A. R., Schalkwyk, L. C., ... & Mill, J. (2014). Methylomic analysis of monozygotic twins discordant for autism spectrum disorder and related behavioural traits.Molecular psychiatry, 19(4), 495-503.


Oberlander, T. F., Weinberg, J., Papsdorf, M., Grunau, R., Misri, S., & Devlin, A. M. (2008). Prenatal exposure to maternal depression, neonatal methylation of human glucocorticoid receptor gene (NR3C1) and infant cortisol stress responses. Epigenetics, 3(2), 97-106.

Biological Areas:



Animal disease, health and welfare
Genes, development and STEM approaches to biology