Could the gift of a good memory ever go unwanted? New research from the University of Basel in Switzerland suggests that those who have a genetic predisposition to form stronger memories may be at an increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Led by neuroscientist Dominique de Quervain, MD, the investigators looked at how genetic differences among 723 study participants related to their ability to remember photographic images. A ScienceNews article reports:
Volunteers who could remember more pictures carried a particular DNA signature in at least one copy of a gene that encodes protein kinase C alpha. In animal studies, this protein has been shown to play a role in the formation of emotional memories. The volunteers’ heightened recall was true for disturbing, pleasant and neutral pictures.
Further evidence came from brain scans performed in a different group of Swiss people. While viewing the pictures, people with the genetic signature had stronger brain activation in parts of the prefrontal cortex compared with those who lacked the genetic feature, the researchers report online the week of May 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Quervain and his team then turned their attention to a group of heavily traumatized survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. They found among the 347 participants a link between those who had the strong-memory gene and a doubled risk for PTSD. More from ScienceNews:
“I think this work is of great theoretical interest,” says PTSD researcher Roger Pitman of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The study supports the idea that stronger memories are linked to a heightened risk of PTSD, a theory that’s been discussed but hasn’t had much evidence, he says. “This is another piece of the puzzle.”
Previously: Can playing Tetris reduce flashbacks and aid in the treatment of PTSD?, Survivors of genocide seek reparations in court and Gene variation predicts age-related mental decline
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