UCLA scientists have linked two genes involved with serotonin production to a higher risk of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These recent findings suggest susceptibility to PTSD may be inherited, which would help with screening and treatment of the disorder. These genes, called TPH1 and TPH2, control production of serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates mood, sleep and alertness. Pinpointing these genes will help neuroscientists classify the disorder based on brain biology instead of clinical observation. PTSD is currently identified on a trial and error approach. Medications known as SSRIs, or selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, prolong the effect of serotonin in the brain by slowing its absorption by brain cells. Gene therapy could be an alternative treatment for the disorder.
Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, emotional numbness or hyper alertness, among others.
This study is significant for military leaders, as they can assign soldiers who are at a higher risk of PTSD to more appropriate combat duties. To have had this knowledge previously could have spared many returning war veterans from the debilitating effects of PTSD.