Tags: trauma | genetic | changes | childhood

Childhood Trauma Changes Genes

Tuesday, 28 Feb 2012 01:40 PM



A new study of how childhood trauma raises the risk of psychiatric disorders has found kids who suffer adversity at an early age experience genetic changes that may drive mental-health problems later.

Butler Hospital researchers, writing in the journal Public Library of Science ONE, said they have discovered that major trauma in childhood can lead to alterations in a gene involved in the regulation of stress hormones – changes that “may increase the risks of psychiatric disorders.”

Studies have shown the loss of a parent or abuse in childhood increases the risk of depression, anxiety and other mental problems. "Our research group turned to the field of epigenetics to determine how environmental conditions in childhood can influence the biological stress response," said Dr. Audrey Tyrka, director of the Laboratory for Clinical and Translational Neuroscience at Butler Hospital.

Epigenetics is the study of changes to the human genome that influence whether genes will be "turned on" in response to some event. The Butler researchers studied the effects of adversity on gene – the glucocorticoid receptor gene – known to regulate stress hormones in the body.

The researchers examined the DNA of 99 healthy adults, some of whom had lost a parent or been abused as children. They found those with a history of childhood adversity had measureable changes in the gene.

"Our results suggest that exposure to stressful experiences during childhood may actually alter the programming of an individual's genome,” Tyrka said. “This concept may have broad public health implications, as it could be a mechanism for the association of childhood trauma with poor health outcomes, including psychiatric disorders as well as medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease."

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Scientists discover genetic changes in people with difficult childhoods that may cause psychiatric disorders.
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Tuesday, 28 Feb 2012 01:40 PM
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