A genetic dysfunction that makes women more vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been discovered and verified as a primary cause of the higher levels of PTSD in women that have been traumatized than in men by Jennifer Strafford Stevens from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia that was published in the Feb. 10, 2014, edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.
The researchers found that higher levels of the pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) receptor genes were associated with a higher risk for PTSD in women in blood samples.
The researchers compared the response of 49 women that had experienced moderate to severe trauma using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the activity in the amygdala and hippocampus regions of the women’s brains where the largest numbers of PACAP receptors are found. The women were examined observing photographs of threatening and neutral faces.
The scientists found that a change in a single portion of the gene called the adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide 1 receptor type 1 (ADCYAP1R1) was responsible for the increased levels of anxiety and fear in women that experienced PTSD. This genetic defect produced increased excitation in both the amygdale and the hippocampus and reduced the transmission of information between the two regions of the brain.
The change in the gene may be a function of genetics or could be caused by adaptive changes to highly traumatic events. The researchers propose using these results to produce a more effective treatment for women who experience PTSD.