A large new study from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium provides the first molecular genetic evidence that genetic influences play a role in the risk of getting Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after trauma. The report extends previous findings that showed that there is some shared genetic overlap between PTSD and other mental disorders such as schizophrenia. It also finds that genetic risk for PTSD is strongest among women. “We know from lots of data—from prisoners of war, people who have been in combat, and from rape victims—that many people exposed to even extreme traumatic events do not develop PTSD. Why is that? We believe that genetic variation is an important factor contributing to this risk or resilience,” said senior author Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who leads the Global Neuropsychiatric Genomics Initiative of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at Broad Institute.
“PTSD may be one of the most preventable of psychiatric disorders,” said first author Laramie Duncan, who did part of the research while at the Broad Institute and is now at Stanford University. “There are interventions effective in preventing PTSD shortly after a person experiences a traumatic event. But they are too resource-intensive to give to everyone. Knowing more about people’s genetic risk for PTSD may help clinicians target interventions more effectively and it helps us understand the underlying biological mechanisms.”