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Psychiatry Journal
Volume 2017, Article ID 5491812, 38 pages
Review Article

Epigenetic and Neural Circuitry Landscape of Psychotherapeutic Interventions

University of Maryland School of Medicine, 701 W. Pratt St., 4th Floor, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Christopher W. T. Miller; ude.dnalyramu.mos@rellimhc

Received 10 December 2016; Accepted 11 April 2017; Published 25 May 2017

Academic Editor: Vaishnav Krishnan

Copyright © 2017 Christopher W. T. Miller. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The science behind psychotherapy has garnered considerable interest, as objective measures are being developed to map the patient’s subjective change over the course of treatment. Prenatal and early life influences have a lasting impact on how genes are expressed and the manner in which neural circuits are consolidated. Transgenerationally transmitted epigenetic markers as well as templates of enhanced thought flexibility versus evasion can be passed down from parent to child. This influences gene expression/repression (impacting neuroplasticity) and kindling of neurocircuitry which can perpetuate maladaptive cognitive processing seen in a number of psychiatric conditions. Importantly, genetic factors and the compounding effects of early life adversity do not inexorably lead to certain fated outcomes. The concepts of vulnerability and resilience are becoming more integrated into the framework of “differential susceptibility,” speaking to how corrective environmental factors may promote epigenetic change and reconfigure neural templates, allowing for symptomatic improvement. Psychotherapy is one such factor, and this review will focus on our current knowledge of its epigenetic and neurocircuitry impact.