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In recent years, a lot of new information has emerged on epigenetics that allows us to better understand how developmental trajectories can be either adaptive or maladaptive.

Experiences and environmental exposures act on genes like a dimmer switch to increase or decrease gene expression, the amount of gene product (RNA, protein) that a gene makes in response to a given environment. This is thought to regulate the neurodevelopment that underlies learning, behaviour as well as mental and physical health.

The developing brain is especially vulnerable to the negative effects of social environmental exposures during early developmental periods. Conversely, supportive, attentive and sensitive adult care plays a salient role in protecting children. 

Not all children react the same way to both adverse and nurturing early experiences. Individual differences in epigenetic susceptibility may well be the explanation behind the various responses to environments. The effects of experience on the modification of gene expression can also be transmitted into the next generation.

By better understanding how genes and the environment interact we may help to identify children at risk who could gain the most from intervention.