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Martin, S. (2014). R. Yehuda, N.P. Daskalakis, A. Lehrner, F. Desarnaud, H.N. Bader, I. Makotkine, J.D. Flory, L.M. Bierer, & M.J. Meaney (2014). Influences of maternal and paternal PTSD on epigenetic regulation of the glucocorticoid receptor gene in Holocaust survivor offspring. American Journal of Psychiatry 171:872-880.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 62(6):1101-1103.
   

(2014). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 62(6):1101-1103

R. Yehuda, N.P. Daskalakis, A. Lehrner, F. Desarnaud, H.N. Bader, I. Makotkine, J.D. Flory, L.M. Bierer, & M.J. Meaney (2014). Influences of maternal and paternal PTSD on epigenetic regulation of the glucocorticoid receptor gene in Holocaust survivor offspring. American Journal of Psychiatry 171:872-880.

Review by:
Sonya Martin

The transmission of human experience from one generation to the next has occupied the minds of thinkers from Aristotle and Plato to Darwin and Freud and beyond. In recent years, genetics and epigenetics have figured into the explanation with increased prominence and nuance. Coined in 1942 by the British philosopher and biologist C. H. Waddington, the term epigenetics refers to heritable changes in phenotype that—unlike those of genetics—do not involve alterations to the underlying DNA sequence. Epigenetics allows for events in the mother's or the father's life to be passed along to their offspring at a molecular genetic level. Recently, epigenetic research has moved into the realm of psychiatry to help account for the intergenerational transmission of traumatic experience. This new research has deep implications for psychoanalysis.

In a recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Yehuda and colleagues measured the distinct influences of maternal and paternal PTSD on psychiatric illness (phenotype), DNA methylation (epigenetics), and glucocorticoid sensitivity (proposed as a link between phenotype and epigenetics) in 80 adult offspring of Holocaust survivors and 15 demographically matched controls. Recognizing that increased glucocorticoid sensitivity confers greater susceptibility to anxiety and depression, the researchers hypothesized that inheritable patterns in DNA methylation would impact the glucocorticoid receptor in ways that would increase the rate of PTSD among adult offspring.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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