Nurture trumps nature in determining severity of PTSD symptoms — ScienceDaily
Researchers at Yale and elsewhere previously identified a host of genetic risk factors that help explain why some veterans are especially susceptible to the debilitating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A new Yale-led study published Oct. 1 in the journal Biological Psychiatry has now identified a social factor that can mitigate these genetic risks: the ability to form loving and trusting relationships with others.
The study is one of the first to explore the role of nurture as well as nature in its investigation of the biological basis of PTSD.
“We exist in a context. We are more than our genes,” said Yale’s Robert H. Pietrzak, associate professor of psychiatry and public health, and senior author of the study.
Pietrzak is also director of the Translational Psychiatric Epidemiology Laboratory of the Clinical Neurosciences Division of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD.
Like many genetic studies on mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, PTSD studies have revealed numerous genetic risk factors that contribute to the severity of the disorder. For instance, a previous study of more than 165,000 U.S. military veterans led by Yale’s Joel Gelernter, the Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry and professor of genetics and of neuroscience, found variants in eight separate regions of the genome that help predict who is most likely to experience the repeated disturbing memories and flashbacks that are hallmark symptoms of PTSD.
In the new study, Pietrzak, Gelernter, and colleagues looked at psychological as well as genetic data collected from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study, which surveyed a national sample of U.S. military veterans, and is supported by the National Center for PTSD. The researchers specifically focused on a measure of attachment style — the ability or inability to form meaningful relations with others