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Posts by Erin Dunn, ScD, MPH

  • Exposure to childhood adversity is thought to produce DNA methylation changes that increase the risk of psychiatric disorders. Researchers have found that age at the time of adversity influences methylation more than the accumulation or recency of the exposure—with implications for timing of interventions.

  • By conducting one of the largest genome-wide association studies in psychiatry, researchers have expanded the understanding of the genetics of major depression—and suggest a new approach to studying who is genetically at high-risk for poor outcomes.

Biography

Erin Dunn, ScD, MPH, is a social and psychiatric epidemiologist with expertise in genetics. Her research lab uses a developmental lens to understand the mechanisms that influence risk for mood disorders, with an emphasis on depression among women, children and adolescents. Her primary focus is on the role of early environmental exposures, especially childhood adversity. She uses her post-doctoral training in genetics to study the role of genetic variation as well as gene-environment interplay (GxE).

Having started her career in early childhood and elementary education, she also studies the role of schools and other social contexts, such as neighborhoods, where youth spend the majority of their time outside of the family. Her work adopts a translational epidemiology perspective, seeking to bridge the “micro” with the “macro.” The long-term goal of her work is to reduce the population-burden of depression by developing population-based prevention strategies and targeting these strategies to specific life stages in development when they could have greatest impact.