Can PTSD Be Genetically Inherited?

Two related stories from Science Daily, the first from May of this year:

A study by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health suggests that traumatic experiences “biologically embed” themselves in select genes, altering their functions and leading to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Our findings suggest a new biological model of PTSD in which alteration of genes, induced by a traumatic event, changes a person’s stress response and leads to the disorder,” said Sandro Galea, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, and principal investigator.

“Identification of the biologic underpinnings of PTSD will be crucial for developing appropriate psychological and/or pharmacological interventions, particularly in the wake of an increasing number of military veterans returning home following recent wars worldwide.”

The findings are published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Read more here. The second story is from Wednesday:

In groups with high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as the survivors of the Nazi Death Camps, the adjustment problems of their children, the so-called “Second Generation,” have received attention by researchers. Studies suggested that some symptoms or personality traits associated with PTSD may be more common in the Second Generation than the general population. It has been assumed that these trans-generational effects reflected the impact of PTSD upon the parent-child relationship rather than a trait passed biologically from parent to child.

However, Dr. Isabelle Mansuy and colleagues provide new evidence in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry that some aspects of the impact of trauma cross generations and are associated with epigenetic changes, i.e., the regulation of the pattern of gene expression, without changing the DNA sequence.

They found that early-life stress induced depressive-like behaviors and altered behavioral responses to aversive environments in mice. Importantly, these behavioral alterations were also found in the offspring of males subjected to early stress even though the offspring were raised normally without any stress. In parallel, the profile of DNA methylation was altered in several genes in the germline (sperm) of the fathers, and in the brain and germline of their offspring.

Read more here.

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  • Vox Penii

    Very interesting; thanks for posting this.

  • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

    It’s fascinating to me to watch the growing body of evidence which supports what we might call a Lemarkian Evolution as opposed to a strictly Darwinian.

    Of course, what we understand to be happening is that environmental factors are influencing the expression of existing genes and this expression is carried on through the germ cells, rather than the environmental factors producing novel genetic sequences and inserting them into the genome.

    But it’s interesting nonetheless, and there may be implications for day-to-day behavior as well as genetic therapies.

  • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

    It’s fascinating to me to watch the growing body of evidence which supports what we might call a Lemarkian Evolution as opposed to a strictly Darwinian.

    Of course, what we understand to be happening is that environmental factors are influencing the expression of existing genes and this expression is carried on through the germ cells, rather than the environmental factors producing novel genetic sequences and inserting them into the genome.

    But it’s interesting nonetheless, and there may be implications for day-to-day behavior as well as genetic therapies.

  • gemmarama

    epigenetics is fascinating stuff. there was an article about it in the guardian a wee while back that blew my mind, anyway.

    here’s a link:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/mar/19/evolution-darwin-natural-selection-genes-wrong

    i find it particularly interesting mainly because it seems to scientifically suggest the existence of some kind of jungian collective unconscious.

    • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

      entirely agreed…I very much believe that humans can retain ‘genetic memory’ for extreme traumatic events. This seems to bear up that concept. Our ability to prosper in difficult environments is tied directly to our capacity to adapt in just a few generations…so It seems completely plausible that coping mechanisms…even faulty ones, become recorded genetic data.

  • gemmarama

    epigenetics is fascinating stuff. there was an article about it in the guardian a wee while back that blew my mind, anyway.

    here’s a link:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/mar/19/evolution-darwin-natural-selection-genes-wrong

    i find it particularly interesting mainly because it seems to scientifically suggest the existence of some kind of jungian collective unconscious.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    entirely agreed…I very much believe that humans can retain ‘genetic memory’ for extreme traumatic events. This seems to bear up that concept. Our ability to prosper in difficult environments is tied directly to our capacity to adapt in just a few generations…so It seems completely plausible that coping mechanisms…even faulty ones, become recorded genetic data.

  • Hadrian999

    ptsd is a very interesting subject,
    i know from experience you can take a several men, expose them to the same things,
    some will come apart at the seams, some will be totally unaffected, hopefully some day there will be
    a way to help these poor people, I recently found out two of the people i served with have taken their own lives
    because they couldn’t deal with it.

  • Hadrian999

    ptsd is a very interesting subject,
    i know from experience you can take a several men, expose them to the same things,
    some will come apart at the seams, some will be totally unaffected, hopefully some day there will be
    a way to help these poor people, I recently found out two of the people i served with have taken their own lives
    because they couldn’t deal with it.