Genetic and neurobiological mechanisms linking childhood trauma to risk for psychiatric disorders.
Severe traumatic experiences in childhood are strongly linked to a number of psychiatric disorders. These experiences may include emotional or physical neglect, as well as emotional, physical or sexual abuse. One very important issue is that not every exposed individual develops a psychiatric disorder, indicating that there are differences in the degree to which different people are vulnerable. It is likely that at least part of this vulnerability can be explained by genetic factors. A second issue that needs to be investigated is via which process childhood trauma increases the risk for psychiatric disorders. It is known that childhood trauma induces a number of changes in the brain, but how these changes may lead to an increased risk for psychiatric disorders is unknown. This project aims to address two important questions: 1) which genes influence the degree to which people are vulnerable to develop psychiatric symptoms following socially adverse experiences?; and 2) do certain brain alterations in adults exposed to traumatic experiences during childhood influence the degree to which they appraise their environment, and can this explain the development of psychiatric symptoms?