Prelims level : Science & Technology Mains level : Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management (GS3L)
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Why in News:

  • A Bengaluru-based group of researchers has discovered a link between stress during early life and problematic, externalising behaviour in the DNA of children of alcoholic parents.

Biology and Adversity:

  • Early adversity is known to have several biological effects. One of this is DNA methylation
    — a process by which chemical changes occur to the DNA molecule. It also affects the functioning of what is called the hypothalamus-pituitary axis.
  • The hypothalamus-pituitary axis is a major neuroendocrine system that controls reactions to stress, regulates digestion, the immune system, mood and emotions, sexuality and energy storage and expenditure.
  • In normal individuals, it is expected that the level of cortisol spikes during stress.

Collated data:

  • The study is unique in that it carries out a detailed assessment of HPA axis function by cortisol estimation during stress and also estimates chemical effects due to early adversity at the DNA level.
  • The study concludes that children of alcoholics
    might have a compromised HPA axis and epigenetic changes at the DNA level possibly resulting in increased externalising behaviour.
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