Violence and trauma are certainly not gifts, but scientifically, the Grady Trauma Project keeps on giving, even after co-director Kerry Resslerâ€™s 2015 move to Massachusetts. Research at Emory on the neurobiology of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continues. This Nature Communications paper, published in December with VA-based psychiatrist Aliza Wingo as lead author, is an example.
Three interesting things about this paper:
- The focus on PTSD co-occurring with depression. As the authors note, several studies looking at traumatized individuals found PTSD and depression together more often than they were present separately. This was true of Atlanta inner city residents in the Grady Trauma Project, veterans and survivors of the 2001 World Trade Center attack.
- DICER: the gene whose activity is turned down in blood samples from people with PTSD plus depression. Its name evokes one of the three Fates in Greek mythology, Atropos, who cuts the thread of life. DICER is at the center of a cellular network of regulation, because it is part of the machinery that generates regulatory micro-RNAs.
- The findings recapitulate work in mouse models of stress and its effects on the brain, with a connection to the many-tentacled Wnt signaling/adhesion protein beta-catenin.
Some past posts on the Grady Trauma Projectâ€™s scientific fruits follow. Read more
In 2013, Brian Dias (at Yerkes) and Kerry Ressler (now at Harvard) describedÂ a surprising example of epigenetic inheritance.
They found that a mouse, exposed to a smell in combination with stress, could transmit the resulting sensitivity to that smell to its offspring. At the time, there wasn’t a lot of information about mechanism.
Now other scientistsÂ haveÂ substantiatedÂ a proposal that micro RNA in playing a role in sperm. See this story (“Sperm RNAs transmit stress”) from Kate Yandell in The ScientistÂ or this one from Rachel Zamzow at Spectrum, the Simons Foundation’s autism news site, for more. An added wrinkle is that thisÂ research showsÂ that descendantsÂ of stress-exposed mice show a muted response to stress.
Note for Emory readers: Dias is scheduled to give a Frontiers in Neuroscience talk on Friday.
This intriguing research has received plenty of attention, Â both when it was presented at the Society of Neuroscience meeting in the fall and then when the results were published in Nature Neuroscience.
The short summary is: researchers at Yerkes National Primate Research Center found that when a mouse learns to become afraid of a certain odor, his or her pups will be more Gafas Ray Ban Baratas sensitive to that odor, even though the pups have never encountered it.Â Both the parent mouse and pups have more space in the smell-processing part of their brains, called the olfactory bulb, devoted to the odor to which they are sensitive.
[Note: a feature on a similar phenomenon, transgenerational inheritance of the effects of chemical exposure, appeared in Science this week]
Somehow information about the parent’s experiences is being inherited. But how? Brian Dias and Kerry Ressler are now pursuing followup experiments to firmly establish what’s going on. They discuss their research in this video:
The connection between stress and blood pressure seems like common sense. Of course experiencing stress — like a narrow miss in morning traffic or dealing with a stubborn, whiny child — raises someoneâ€™s blood pressure.
Try reversing the cause-and-effect relationship: not from brain to body, but instead from body to brain. Could medication for controlling blood pressure moderate the effects of severe stress, and thus aid in controlling PTSD symptoms or in preventing the development of PTSD after trauma?
That was the intriguing implication arising from a 2012 paper from Grady Trauma Project investigators led by psychiatrist Kerry Ressler (lab at Yerkes, supported by HHMI).
They had found that traumatized civilians who take either of two classes of common blood pressure medications tend to have less severe post-traumatic stress symptoms. In particular, individuals taking ACE inhibitors (angiotensin converting enzyme)Â or ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers)Â tended to have lower levels of hyperarousal and intrusive thoughts, and this effect was not observed with other blood pressure medications.
This was one of those observational findings that needs to be tested in an active way: â€œOK, people who are already taking more X experience less severe symptoms. But can we actually use X as an intervention?â€
In mice, it seems to work. Read more