Erin Kinnally, Ph.D.
Neuroscience and Behavior Unit
Dr. Kinnally’s research focuses on the dynamic interactions between the environment and the genome influence how our genes, brains and bodies work, why we behave as we do, and how healthy we are. The effects of these interactions do not end with us, and can affect subsequent generations as well.
Mendelian genetic approaches have not allowed us to solve all of the mysteries of the inheritance of human disease. One non-genetic explanation for the inheritance of common mental and physical disorders is that environmental exposures can increase risk for a particular disorder. Intriguingly, the effects of the exposure in some cases may be transmitted to offspring through changes in the environment the parent provides or, alternatively, germ-line factors, that increase risk for disease in the second generation. Our recent work, consistent with seminal work in humans and other mammals, suggests that parent-offspring dynamics influence macaque infant neurobehavioral development and health. Intriguingly, we have also observed that some parental effects on infant health that cannot be explained entirely by social mechanisms. The future of this research is to identify germ-line consequences of specific parental exposures, and health effects across generations.