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.