Memory formation and storage require long-lasting changes in memory-related neuronal circuits. Recent evidence indicates that DNA methylation may serve as a contributing mechanism in memory formation and storage. These emerging findings suggest a role for an epigenetic mechanism in learning and long-term memory maintenance and raise apparent conundrums and questions. For example, it is unclear how DNA methylation might be reversed during the formation of a memory, how changes in DNA methylation alter neuronal function to promote memory formation, and how DNA methylation patterns differ between neuronal structures to enable both consolidation and storage of memories. Here we evaluate the existing evidence supporting a role for DNA methylation in memory, discuss how DNA methylation may affect genetic and neuronal function to contribute to behavior, propose several future directions for the emerging subfield of neuroepigenetics, and begin to address some of the broader implications of this work.
Research in the genetics of hearing and deafness has evolved rapidly over the past years, providing the molecular foundation for different aspects of the mechanism of hearing. Considered to be the most common sensory disorder, hearing impairment is genetically heterogeneous. The multitude of genes affected encode proteins associated with many different functions, encompassing overarching areas of research. These include, but are not limited to, developmental biology, cell biology, physiology, and neurobiology. In this review, we discuss the broad categories of genes involved in hearing and deafness. Particular attention is paid to a subgroup of genes associated with inner ear gene regulation, fluid homeostasis, junctional complex and tight junctions, synaptic transmission, and auditory pathways. Overall, studies in genetics have provided research scientists and clinicians with insight regarding practical implications for the hearing impaired, while heralding hope for future development of therapeutics.
The evolution of the human brain has resulted in numerous specialized features including higher cognitive processes such as language. Knowledge of whole-genome sequence and structural variation via high-throughput sequencing technology provides an unprecedented opportunity to view human evolution at high resolution. However, phenotype discovery is a critical component of these endeavors and the use of nontraditional model organisms will also be critical for piecing together a complete picture. Ultimately, the union of developmental studies of the brain with studies of unique phenotypes in a myriad of species will result in a more thorough model of the groundwork the human brain was built upon. Furthermore, these integrative approaches should provide important insights into human diseases.