Archive for March 2nd, 2009

Over on my professional adoption blog, one of my partners wrote an interesting blog entry entitled Early Abuse Severe Neglect Damages Genes. I went looking for the original article, and I found two: here and here.

According to a study that will be published in a journal called Nature Neuroscience, child abuse survivors have lower levels of the NR3C1 gene, which affects a person’s ability to deal with stress. The researchers studied brain tissue for people who suffered severe child abuse and compared it to the brain tissue of others who did not suffer from child abuse, which is how they found the difference.

According the article entitled Child Abuse Alters Brain Gene,

The researchers hypothesize that because of the changes in this gene’s expression, people might have trouble turning off their stress response. This could result in a person’s body being in a constant stressful state, leading to future problems with depression, anxiety and possibly even suicide.

The article went on to speculate that perhaps this form of hypervigilance could be reversible.

I was really excited to learn about this study. First of all, it is such a relief whenever there are physical findings that explain a child abuse survivor’s reaction to the trauma. Rather than us child abuse survivors just being “crazy,” we can now point to a tangible, physical explanation for our hypervigilance. That’s huge!

Also, I am encouraged by the speculation that hypervigilance could be reversible. If scientists come up with an “antidote” to the hypervigilance, I will be first in line to volunteer to test it out. I would love to know what it is like to live my life without being flooded with adrenaline every night as soon as the sun goes down.

And, finally, it is nice to see the connection being made in the science community between child abuse and depression, anxiety, & suicide. Of course, we in the child abuse survivor community are intimately familiar with these aftereffects, but now the rest of the world will have to acknowledge the connection.

What are your thoughts on this study?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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