BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Thomas R. Insel, MD, director of the National
Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health,
has selected research by a University at Buffalo professor as one
of the top five most important findings of 2011.
In his Director's blog on the "NIMH's Top Ten Research Advances
of 2011," Insel includes at number five "Epigenomics: How
Experience Alters Behavior" and references research by David Dietz,
PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the UB
School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Dietz is lead author of
a study published in the Journal of Biological Psychiatry, whose
preliminary findings indicate that depression in families is passed
on to the next generation primarily through behavioral interactions
between parents and offspring, not through genetics.
"This recognition speaks to the quality and impact of Dr.
Dietz's research," says Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, chair and
professor of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the
UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. "We are proud to
have Dr. Dietz as a faculty member at UB and look forward to his
The research, conducted by Dietz and co-authors at the Mt. Sinai
School of Medicine, where Dietz had formerly been based, and
Utrecht University in the Netherlands, also was presented at the
annual meetings of the Society of Neuroscience in November and the
American College on Neuropsychopharmacology in December. It was
funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Insel states in the blog: "Research suggests that epigenetics
may also be a sort of programming language through which experience
can have lasting effects on behavior, not only in an individual
over a lifetime, but across generations. This effect was
demonstrated in a 2011 study of male mice exposed to social
defeat—repeated bullying by another aggressive
male…The bullied males developed behavior resembling
depression, and in subtle ways, so did their offspring. This was
true even though contact between mother and bullied father was
brief and took place well before the birth of the young, suggesting
that epigenetic mechanisms played a role."
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, a flagship institution in the State University
of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus.
UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests
through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional
degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a
member of the Association of American Universities.