A new study published in PNAS by researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland suggests that a gene linked to improved memory may also increase a person's risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, Nature News' Mo Costandi reports. The researchers studied DNA samples from 700 healthy volunteers, focusing ont their PRKCA gene, which has been shown to be involved in the creation of emotionally charged memories, Costandi says. They then showed the volunteers emotionally evocative pictures and asked them to write down descriptions. The researchers found that those participants carrying two copies of one PRKCA variant called the A allele remembered the most details of the pictures, he adds.
The team went on to examine a group of Rwandan refugees and found that while they had all experienced traumatic events, less than half had been diagnosed with PTSD, Costandi says. The study's lead author Dominique de Quervain tells Costandi that "the A allele was significantly over-represented in those with a diagnosis of PTSD" and that "carriers of this allele had a roughly two-fold increase in risk for PTSD." As the A allele confers an enhanced memory on the carrier, it could also increase that person's risk for PTSD, the researchers add.
Our sister publication Genome Technology has more on possible genetic basis for PTSD here.