NeuRA-Profile-2016 - page 13

ADOLESCENCE —
13
Theseearlyexperiences alsohaveagreat impact ona teen’s
developinghypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which
is thebody’swayof dealingwith stress.
Prolongedexposure to these stresseshas thepotential to
causeavarietyof illnesses inadult life. Previous studies
havenoted that exposure to trauma inchildhoodcanalso
affect cognition later in life for healthyadults, peoplewith
schizophreniaandpeoplewithborderlinepersonalitydisorder.
This causedour researchers towonder if thegene,
FKBP5
,
which is associatedwithan impaired stress response
system, alsohadaneffect oncognition in schizophrenia.
The study found that peoplewhowereexposed tochildhood
traumaandhadavariant of the
FKBP5
gene, performedworse
onattention tasks thandidparticipantswhowerenot exposed
tochildhoodmaltreatment.
The schizophreniagroup, whether or not theyexperienced
adverse situations as children, also sharedadisease-associated
marker thatwas associatedwithaworseperformanceon
cognitive tests than thehealthycontrols.
“This is agreat exampleof howenvironmental influences
canalter howour genes express themselves,” saysAssocProf
MelissaGreen. “Theeffect of poor childhoodexperiences
on the
FKBP5
variant not only influenceswhether or not a
mental illnessmaydevelop, but also seems toaffect cognitive
functions inhealthypeople. This is somethingwe’venot
realisedbeforenowandopens thedoor tomanynewexciting
researchopportunities.”
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