Early childhood experiences and altered receptor expression
Do our earliest experiences change our brains? According to findings from a Canadian autopsy study this may be the case. Researchers measured the hippocampal expression of the glucocorticoid receptor gene NR3C1 in the brains of 12 suicide completers with a childhood history of severe trauma, 12 suicide completers with no early childhood trauma, and 12 controls who did not experience trauma during childhood and died accidentally. The researchers found a link between altered expression of a glucocorticoid receptor gene in suicide completers and severe childhood abuse. Those who experienced severe childhood trauma and were suicide completers had significantly greater methylation of the gene’s promoter region, which ultimately results in less receptor activity and gene transcription. The study was a replication of an animal epigenetic model measuring the promoter region of a rat homologue of NR3C1; infant rats that were not groomed regularly were found to have increased methylation of this region. Click here to view an article from Psychiatry Watch that discusses the study more.