Gene and Genetics – Stress and Depression

People with a genetic vulnerability to stress are more than twice as likely to develop depression after a traumatic event, such as divorce, as those with a version of the same gene that appears to confer protection, scientists have found.

Leaders in the field said the work marks the first time that scientists have traced the roots of a complex mental disorder to a specific interaction of genes and the environment: In effect, they said, traumatic experiences are like falling off a bicycle, but genes determine whether the person is wearing a helmet.

“What they have done is going to change the paradigm for how we think about genes and psychiatric disorders,” said Thomas R. Insel, the federal government’s top researcher of mental illness and the director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

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