Genetics And Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Relationship

Why do some people seem to recover after experiencing a traumatic event while others suffer stress disorder? Genetics? Environment? It appears to be an interaction of both.

This new research, conducted by Rebekah G. Bradley, Ph.D. (Emory University School of Medicine) and colleagues, found an association between variation in the gene FKBP5, childhood abuse and risk in adults.

PTSD Genetic and Environmental Factors

There is an existing body of research suggesting that the level of psychological risk to the traumatized individual is due to both genetic and environmental factors, and that a history of being abused as a child seems to be associated with a significant increase the risk of developing it. Bradley and her colleagues were interested in figuring out how these prior findings on genetics.

FKBP5 Gene & Stress

They focused their investigation on polymorphisms (genetic variations) of the gene FKBP5 (a gene related to stress response), and how these genetic variations predicted symptoms in traumatized, low-income, urban men and women. The research examined not only FKBP5 polymorphisms and adult post traumatic stress, but also took into consideration the level of child abuse and other types of trauma that the subjects reported having been exposed to.

Genetics, Child Abuse and PTSD

Bradley and her colleagues found that adult symptoms could be directly predicted from the level of child abuse and level of other types of trauma. Although the variations of FKBP5 did not directly predict adult symptoms, or their severity in light of non-child abuse trauma, the FKBP5 gene did relate to the severity of child abuse as a predictor of adult symptoms.

FKBP5 and Child Abuse

This stress-related gene appears to be influenced by trauma experienced at a young age. The association of specific FKBP5 variations and childhood abuse strongly increased the chances for adult survivors of abuse to develop signs.

Level of Child Abuse and PTSD

Among adults who had been severely abused as children, those with the certain FKBP5 variations scored more than twice the level of post-traumatic stress as individuals without those variants of the gene; and the more severe the abuse, the higher the risk in people with genetic variations that predisposed them to disorder.

Stress-Gene, Environment and PTSD

This important research suggests that a potential genetic-environment interaction exists during childhood for later development of adult , and is one of the first studies to reveal that genes can be influenced by environmental factors in triggering it.

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