Waddington, Dynamic Systems, and Epigenetics

Front Behav Neurosci. 2016 Jun 10:10:107. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2016.00107. eCollection 2016.


Waddington coined the term "epigenetic" to attempt to explain the complex, dynamic interactions between the developmental environment and the genome that led to the production of phenotype. Waddington's thoughts on the importance of both adaptability and canalization of phenotypic development are worth recalling as well, as they emphasize the available range for epigenetic action and the importance of environmental feedback (or lack thereof) in the development of complex traits. We suggest that a dynamic systems view fits well with Waddington's conception of epigenetics in the developmental context, as well as shedding light on the study of the molecular epigenetic effects of the environment on brain and behavior. Further, the dynamic systems view emphasizes the importance of the multi-directional interchange between the organism, the genome and various aspects of the environment to the ultimate phenotype.

Keywords: adaptation; animal models; behavioral development; biological; gene environment interactions; human development; psychological; social environment.