The Mayo Clinic just issued the following news release:

Mayo Clinic Researchers Examine the Psychological Impact of Child Abuse

SAN FRANCISCO, May 21 — According to a new Mayo Clinic study, a history
of child abuse significantly impacts the wide range of challenges facing
depressed inpatients.

Included are an increase in suicide attempts, prevalence of substance
use disorder, and a higher incidence rate of personality disorder.

Additionally, these victims also had an earlier onset of mental illness
and an increase in psychiatric hospitalizations for psychiatric issues.

The study was presented at the American Psychiatric Association 2009
Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

The impact of child abuse already is known to increase the risk of
suicide; however, the literature about other characteristics of
depressed victims of child abuse is scarce.

Although the findings of the Mayo study do not confirm causality, the
information stresses the importance of more aggressive approaches from
the public health perspective to prevent child abuse.

“A history of child abuse makes most psychiatric illnesses worse,”
according to Magdalena Romanowicz, M.D., lead author of the study.

“We found that it significantly impacts the wide range of
characteristics of depressed inpatients, including increased risk of
suicide attempt, substance abuse, as well as earlier onset of mental
illness and more psychiatric hospitalizations.

This new information serves as a reminder of the importance of child
abuse prevention from a public health perspective.”

Dr. Romanowicz says plans are under way to further examine the
association between child abuse and metal illness in a larger study of
patients.

Other authors of this Mayo Clinic study include: Gen Shinozaki, M.D.;
Victoria Passov, M.D.; Simon Kung, M.D.; Renato Alarcon, M.D.; and David
Mrazek, M.D.

Courtesy of Ken Pope

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Today’s new issue of *Journal of the American Medical Association* (Vol.
301 No. 13, April 1, 2009) includes an article: “Abuse and the Brain” by
Joan Stephenson, PhD.

Here’s how the article begins:

[begin excerpt]

Early childhood abuse might exert lifelong effects by altering a
person’s DNA and reducing levels of glucocorticoid receptors in the
brain, which are important for responding to stress, Canadian scientists
have found (McGowan PO et al. Nat Neurosci. 2009;12[3]:342-348).

The investigators examined brain tissue from 24 men who had committed
suicide, half of whom had a history of childhood abuse, and from 12 men
who had not been abused and died suddenly from other causes.

Men with a history of abuse had lower levels of glucocorticoid receptors
than did men who had not been abused or had not committed suicide.

In addition, in those who had been abused, a snippet of “promoter” DNA
that normally facilitates the production of glucocorticoid receptors had
been silenced by the attachment of a methyl group.

The researchers noted the work confirms their previous findings…

[end excerpt]

The article is online — but requires a subscription — at:
<http://tinyurl.com/comoql&gt;.

Courtesy of Ken Pope

Child abuse ‘impacts stress gene’ and has long-lasting effects

Abuse in early childhood permanently alters how the brain reacts to stress, a Canadian study suggests.

Analysis of brain tissue from adults who had committed suicide found key genetic changes in those who had suffered abuse as a child.

It affects the production of a receptor known to be involved in stress responses, the researchers said.

The Nature Neuroscience study underpins the impact of stress on early brain development, experts said.

Previous research has shown that abuse in childhood is associated with an increased reaction to stressful circumstances.
Whilst these results obviously need to be replicated, they provide a mechanism by which experiences early in life can have an effect on behaviour later in adulthood

But exactly how environmental factors interact with genes and contribute to depression or other mental disorders in adulthood is not well understood.

A research team led by McGill University, in Montreal, examined the gene for the glucocorticoid receptor – which helps control the response to stress – in a specific brain region of 12 suicide victims with a history of child abuse and 12 suicide victims who did not suffer abuse when younger.

They found chemical changes which reduced the activity of the gene in those who suffered child abuse.

And they showed this reduced activity leads to fewer glucocorticoid receptors.

Those affected would have had an abnormally heightened response to stress, the researchers said.

It suggests that experience in childhood when the brain is developing, can have a long-term impact on how someone responds to stressful situations.

But study leader Professor Michael Meaney said they believe these biochemical effects could also occur later in life.

“If you’re a public health individual or a child psychologist you could say this shows you nothing you didn’t already know.

“But until you show the biological process, many people in government and policy-makers are reluctant to believe it’s real.

“Beyond that, you could ask whether a drug could reverse these effects and that’s a possibility.”

Dr Jonathan Mill, from the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London said the research added to growing evidence that environmental factors can alter the expression of genes – a process known as epigenetics.

“Whilst these results obviously need to be replicated, they provide a mechanism by which experiences early in life can have an effect on behaviour later in adulthood.

“The exciting thing about epigenetic alterations is that they are potentially reversible, and thus perhaps a future target for therapeutic intervention.”

from <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7901337.stm&gt;.