One of the great scientific debates of the 20th century was that of
‘nature versus nurture’. How much of our behaviour and physiology (our
phenotype) can be explained by the DNA we inherit from our ancestors,
and how much by the environment we experience? In the 21st century, we
recognize that the two are linked together. This awareness implies a
need to understand the whole organism beyond its parts, and that the
environment provides a context that gives meaning to genetic
Dr. McGowan published the first study on epigenetic mechanisms associated with suicide and early adversity in humans and the first tiling microarray analysis of the influence of early environment on epigenetic and transcriptomic signaling in the mammalian brain. His group published the first study of genome-wide epigenetic changes associated with Chronic Fatigue/Myalgic Encophalomyelitis.
In his work with animal models, his research group showed that high fat diet exposure during development leads to altered glucocorticoid and immune signaling in adulthood in brain regions relevant for anxiety behavior. He is also studying the transgenerational epigenetic effects of variations in maternal care and prenatal stress in rodent models.