Friday, January 15, 2016

Researchers Tackle Complexity of Intergenerational Stress Transmission

Before, during, or after? Those are the questions facing researchers studying the transmission of stress from one generation to another.

“Altogether, far less controversy regarding intergenerational transmission of stress exists today, as transmission has been documented across species, cultures, and trauma types and for a variety of psychiatric disorders,” wrote Mallory Bowers, Ph.D., and Rachel Yehuda, Ph.D., of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York in an article appearing in the January issue of Neuropsychopharmacology. The big question, they noted, is how that process takes place.

Among other things, the authors described how the offspring of stress- or trauma-exposed parents may be at greater risk for physical, behavioral, and cognitive problems and psychopathology. They also described the biological correlates of intergenerationally transmitted stress and proposed future directions for research.

“Although investigations into the intergenerational transmission of stress in humans will continue to be challenged by constraints related to the study of human subjects, the interpretation of these studies will be boosted by biological manipulations in animal studies, the use of conservative statistical tests, large cohorts of human subjects, and the use of identified gold-standard techniques,” the authors noted.

“While we propose a few directed lines of inquiry, including the investigation of the role of fathers, imprinting, mitigating factors, and the perpetuation of stress across multiple generations, the field is ripe for addressing a multitude of hypotheses,” they concluded.

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Transmission of Anxious Behaviors to Offspring Has More to Do With Environment Than Genes.”

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