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Our individual genetic make-up determines the effect that stress has on our emotional centres. These are the findings of a group of researchers from the MedUni Vienna. Not every individual reacts in the same way to life events that produce the same degree of stress. Some grow as a result of the crisis, whereas others break down and fall ill, for example with depression. The outcome is determined by a complex interaction between depression gene versions and environmental factors.
The Vienna research group, together with international cooperation partners, have demonstrated that there are interactions between stressful life events and certain risk gene variants that subsequently change the volume of the hippocampus forever.
The hippocampus is a switching station in the processing of emotions and acts like a central interface when dealing with stress. It is known to react very sensitively to stress. In situations of stress that are interpreted as a physical danger ('distress'), it shrinks in size, which is a phenomenon observed commonly in patients with depression and one which is responsible for some of their clinical symptoms. By contrast, positive stress ('eustress'), of the kind that can occur in emotionally exciting social situations can actually cause the hippocampus to increase in size.
According to the results of the study, just how stressful life events impact on the size of the hippocampus depends on more than just environmental factors. There are genes that determine whether the same life event causes an increase or decrease in the volume of the hippocampus, and which therefore defines whether the stress is good or bad for our brain. The more risk genes an individual has, the more negative an impact the "life events" have on the size of the hippocampus. Where there are no or only a few risk genes, this life event can actually have a positive effect.
Examining life crises
As part of the study, carried out at the University Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy (led by Siegfried Kasper), the study team obtained quantitative information from healthy test subjects about stressful life events, such as deaths in the family, divorce, unemployment, financial losses, relocations, serious illnesses or accidents.
originally posted by: Iamthatbish
I had never heard that one before. Depression is selfish? Wowsers!!
Good article. I knew depression was a chemistry issue, now it seems to be a wiring issue as well.
...I know some people like to argue that depression is just someone being selfish but that isn't true. It's a legit medical condition caused by something going on in the human brain, usually a chemical imbalance.
originally posted by: soficrow
a reply to: knoledgeispower
Few diseases involve actual genetic mutations, although some do. The rest are epigenetic - a fact only industry, eugenicists and molecular biologists with published textbooks deny. The nature-nurture debate is over - except for the players who are positioning to avoid lawsuits or hang on to their tenure and royalties.
What is genetic testing?
Genetic tests look for alterations in a person's genes or changes in the level or structure of key proteins coded for by specific genes.
In their 2014 survey of scientists, many respondents wrote that the familiar distinction between nature and nurture has outlived its usefulness, and should be retired. One reason is the explosion of work in the field of epigenetics. Scientists believe that there is a long and circuitous route, with many feedback loops, from a particular set of genes to a feature of the adult organism.