March 09, 2008
Brain Gene Makes Abused Kids More Prone To Depression

Some kids have genes that make them better able to handle abuse with fewer long term repercussions.

Some forms of a gene that controls the body's response to stress hormones appear to protect adults who were abused in childhood from depression, psychiatrists have found.

People who had been abused as children and who carried the most protective forms of the gene, called corticotropin-releasing hormone receptor one (CRHR1), had markedly lower measures of depression, compared with people with less protective forms, the researchers found in a recent study.

The findings could guide doctors in finding new ways to treat depression in people who were abused as children, says senior author Kerry Ressler, MD, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine.

This is not the first report of genetic variations of brain genes that affect how well developing children handle abuse and adversity. Previous research found that children who carry the low MAOA activity allele (MAOA-L) and who are abused demonstrate more aggressive and violent behavior as adults.

Some kids have genes that let them shrug off all sorts of abuse and basically keep trucking. Other kids aren't so lucky. Those latter kids become problems for the rest of us too. Violence prone adults pose a danger to whoever they come into contact with.

Early identification of kids with genetic vulnerabilities might some day get used to guide more aggressive state intervention into bad families. You can imagine social workers arguing to take a kid out of an abusive home more quickly if the has genes that make him or her vulnerable to permanent and problematic behavioral and personality alterations.

Once offspring genetic engineering becomes possible we can't assume parents should avoid giving offspring these genetic variations that make kids more vulnerable to abuse. There might be benefits to these alleles in more benign environments. Though I see a more compelling argument for discouraging the passing along of these alleles if either prospective parent has a genetic profile and brain scans that suggests he or she is likely to abuse kids.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 March 09 10:30 PM  Brain Genetics

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