Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Childhood trauma leaves its mark on the brain

Date:
January 15, 2013
Source:
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Summary:
Scientists have found evidence that psychological wounds inflicted when young leave lasting biological traces -- and a predisposition toward violence later in life.

Peripuberty stressed rats show increased activation in the amygdala (involved in emotional processing) and blunted activation in the orbitofrontal cortex (involved in social decision-making).
Credit: EPFL

It is well known that violent adults often have a history of childhood psychological trauma. Some of these individuals exhibit very real, physical alterations in a part of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex. Yet a direct link between such early trauma and neurological changes has been difficult to find, until now.

Publishing in the January 15 edition of Translational Psychiatry, EPFL Professor Carmen Sandi and team demonstrate for the first time a correlation between psychological trauma in pre-adolescent rats and neurological changes similar to those found in violent humans.

"This research shows that people exposed to trauma in childhood don't only suffer psychologically, but their brain also gets altered," explains Sandi, Head of EPFL's Laboratory of Behavioral Genetics, Director of the Brain Mind Institute, and a member of the National Centers for Competence in Research SYNAPSY. "This adds an additional dimension to the consequences of abuse, and obviously has scientific, therapeutic and social implications."

The researchers were able to unravel the biological foundations of violence using a cohort of male rats exposed to psychologically stressful situations when young. After observing that these experiences led to aggressive behavior when the rats reached adulthood, they examined what was happening in the animals' brains to see if the traumatic period had left a lasting mark.

"In a challenging social situation, the orbitofrontal cortex of a healthy individual is activated in order to inhibit aggressive impulses and to maintain normal interactions," explains Sandi. "But in the rats we studied, we noticed that there was very little activation of the orbitofrontal cortex. This, in turn, reduces their ability to moderate their negative impulses. This reduced activation is accompanied by the overactivation of the amygdala, a region of the brain that's involved in emotional reactions." Other researchers who have studied the brains of violent human individuals have observed the same deficit in orbitofrontal activation and the same corresponding reduced inhibition of aggressive impulses. "It's remarkable; we didn't expect to find this level of similarity," says Sandi.

The scientists also measured changes in the expression of certain genes in the brain. They focused on genes known to be involved in aggressive behavior for which there are polymorphisms (genetic variants) that predispose carriers to an aggressive attitude, and they looked at whether the psychological stress experienced by the rats caused a modification in the expression of these genes. "We found that the level of MAOA gene expression increased in the prefrontal cortex," says Sandi. This alteration was linked to an epigenetic change; in other words, the traumatic experience ended up causing a long-term modification of this gene's expression.

Finally, the researchers tested the efficacy of an MAOA gene inhibitor, in this case an anti-depressant, to see if it could reverse the rise in aggression induced by juvenile stress, which it did. Going forward, the team will explore treatments for reversing physical changes in the brain, and above all, attempt to shed light on whether some people are more vulnerable to being effected by trauma based on their genetic makeup.

"This research could also reveal the possible ability of antidepressants -- an ability that's increasingly being suspected -- to renew cerebral plasticity," says Sandi.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C Márquez, G L Poirier, M I Cordero, M H Larsen, A Groner, J Marquis, P J Magistretti, D Trono, C Sandi. Peripuberty stress leads to abnormal aggression, altered amygdala and orbitofrontal reactivity and increased prefrontal MAOA gene expression. Translational Psychiatry, 2013; 3 (1): e216 DOI: 10.1038/tp.2012.144

Cite This Page:

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. "Childhood trauma leaves its mark on the brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130115090215.htm>.
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. (2013, January 15). Childhood trauma leaves its mark on the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 14, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130115090215.htm
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. "Childhood trauma leaves its mark on the brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130115090215.htm (accessed September 14, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Respiratory Virus Spreads To Northeast, Now In 21 States

Respiratory Virus Spreads To Northeast, Now In 21 States

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — The respiratory virus Enterovirus D68, which targets children, has spread from the Midwest to 21 states. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) — A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Contagious Respiratory Illness Continues to Spread Across U.S.

Contagious Respiratory Illness Continues to Spread Across U.S.

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 12, 2014) — Hundreds of children in several states have been stricken by a serious respiratory illness that is spreading across the U.S. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Batters Sierra Leone Economy Too

Ebola Batters Sierra Leone Economy Too

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 12, 2014) — The World Health Organisation warns that local health workers in West Africa can't keep up with Ebola - and among those countries hardest hit by the outbreak, the economic damage is coming into focus, too. As David Pollard reports, Sierra Leone admits that growth in one of the poorest economies in the region is taking a beating. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins