Life events - gene-environment interactions
Professor Bruce McEwen describes how the interplay between life events and genes can lead to behavioral problems.
I think you cannot separate the genes and environmental factors, or even the intermediate epigenetic factors. Iâ€™ll give you an example: the studies of Avshalom Caspi and his colleagues, which are also quite well known, in Dunedin, New Zealand. Itâ€™s a longitudinal study where they took genetic information; they have very careful behavioral analysis. There are, in one of their now classic papers that was published in Science, if you have certain alleles of the monoamine oxidase gene, if you have a certain allele and you happen to be abused in one of these chaotic home situations, the person is more likely to themselves become an abuser, if you will, an antisocial personality. But if the person has not had a chaotic home life, then youâ€™ll never see these traits emerge, I mean you wonâ€™t see them, itâ€™s a probabilistic argument. One of their other studies involves the serotonin transporter. Thereâ€™s an allele that results in less expression of the serotonin transporter, and thereâ€™s another that results in a greater expression. People who have the short form [of the serotonin transporter allele] are more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, alcoholism, a whole bunch of things like that. But again, itâ€™s conditional, dependent on the kind of life experiences they have, whether itâ€™s tolerable or toxic stress, if you will. Because if itâ€™s tolerable and they have good support systems, they may not become depressed as frequently as people with the short allele who had a tough life. So, I donâ€™t think you can really separate out the genetic from the environmental, and in both cases, as I was saying, the idea of resilience or lack of resilience in the brain is very important. If the brain cannot bounce back on its own, then you may have to treat with a drug, and it may be that these certain gene characteristics â€“ these alleles â€“ may make the brain less likely to be resilient.
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Professor Bruce McEwen discusses the dramatic impact early-life events can have on development.
The amygdala controls autonomic responses associated with fear, arousal, and emotional stimulation and has been linked to anxiety disorder and social phobias.
An overview of depression-related content on Genes to Cognition Online.
Professor Bruce McEwen discusses differences between the sexes in coping with stress. These are mediated by hormonal, neural, and genetic factors.
Professor Bruce McEwen describes the interplay between reilience and stress, which can cause the brain to shrink or grow.
Professor Bruce McEwen notes that stimulation during early life can lead to a better cognitive outcome.
Professor Helen Mayberg discusses several recent studies that have changed how we understand depression - how different gene-environment interactions can predict depression onset.
The serotonin transporter gene may affect neural circuits connecting the amygdala and the cingulate and cause depression.
Professor Bruce McEwen outlines the environmental, genetic, and experiential factors that can cause tolerable stress to become toxic.