How Childhood Trauma Causes Mental Health Disorders In Adult Life – Warungku Terkini

warungku Magazine (Aug. 23, 2023) — Childhood neglect and abuse can cause extreme stress, significantly affecting how our brain develops and function. Clinical data have previously shown that people who experience childhood abuse and emotional neglect are at a higher risk of developing mental health problems such as depression and schizophrenia in their adult years.

But the exact biological mechanisms underlying this were unknown.

A recent study by a research team at The Korea Advanced Institute Of Science And Technology (KAIST) has discovered the biological mechanisms of how childhood abuse and neglect can lead to diseases like schizophrenia. Their research was published in Immunity.

The research team initially studied an FDA approved drug to identify factors that control the pathway by which astrocytes help keep nerve cells healthy by clearing away harmful substances from around them. Astrocytes are star-shaped cells that provide structural and physiological support to the central nervous system. These cells also regulate pH levels, modulate oxidative stress, and nourish nerve cells.

They also found that when exposed to stress hormones called glucocorticoids, the astrocytes remove too many connections (synapses) between brain cells. Synapses link sensory organs in the peripheral nervous system to the brain, allowing signals related to sensations like pain or touch to travel.

Next, to validate the above findings and understand how childhood stress affects astrocytes, the researchers studied the brain cells of mice whom the researchers had exposed to stress in their early life. The researchers found that stress hormones attach to specific receptors on astrocytes and make them overproduce a protein called MERK.

This protein triggers astrocytes to remove specific brain connections. This in turn creates unusual brain networks, which can cause complicated behavioral issues and depression. The researchers replicated the study on lab-grown human brain cells to see if these findings apply to humans. They found that stress hormones had similar effects on human brain cells.

“Until now, we did not know the exact mechanism for how childhood stress caused brain diseases. This research was the first to show that the excessive phagocytosis of astrocytes could be an important cause of such diseases,” said Won-Suk Chung, Associate professor, Department of Biological Sciences, KAIST, who led the study. “In the future, controlling the immune response of astrocytes will be used as a fundamental target for understanding and treating brain diseases,” he added.

Source: The Korea Advanced Institute Of Science And Technology ; Image: Shutterstock

The article can be found at:  Stress induces behavioral abnormalities by increasing expression of phagocytic receptor, MERTK, in astrocytes to promote synapse phagocytosis

Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of warungku or its staff.


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