Physiology Phriday: Abuse alters genes?

Check out the following link for some very interesting research on how abuse alters the NR3C1 gene in the hippocampus which functions to limit our stress responses. It appears that when the gene is altered, it inhibits natural control of stress responses thereby leaving the abuse victim on high levels of alert.

This may give new meaning to “the sins of the fathers passed on to the third generation” comment in Scripture.


Filed under Abuse, counseling science, Psychology

4 responses to “Physiology Phriday: Abuse alters genes?

  1. Lou Buses

    It is interesting. I understand what is proposed. What does it change? Let’s say I was emotionally abandoned by my mother (a form of abuse). So I am more susceptible to depression. I am a victim. I have no hope or responsibility of dealing with it, except through taking a pill? Since I am depressed, my children are significantly more likely to be depressed. Woe is me!

    When I see my counselees headed in this direction, as part of counseling, I use the verse just before your reference, ‘keeping loyal love to the thousands of generations’? It gives them the power of God’s promise and the goal of being the one through whom the following generations are blessed. Certainly the ‘checed’ of God in this verse is Jesus Christ. But, that ‘loving kindness’ is expressed through individuals to the following generations. That is the story of Adam, Abraham, and ‘Takeyourpick’. We all understand God blesses in spite of our circumstances. Your counselee can be the pivot point that God uses to change his/her family future.

    (apology for preaching)

  2. Absolutely. I don’t think that recognizing biological or genetic defects makes us victims in the sense of being helpless. Victims? Yes. Helpless? No! There is real impact to sin, beyond what we Western evangelicals are comfortable with. But we are not without hope and God is not without providing great grace and mercy–beyond all imagination.

  3. My daughter’s psychiatrist told me this several months ago; right before he put her on a low dose of an Angiotensin II Receptor Blocker (ARB). She was having real, measurable panic attacks. She had periods of rapid heart rate and complained of being “unable to catch her breath.” A 24-hour halter monitor showed that this happened several times a day. Sometimes the symptoms woke her from a deep sleep.

    Without understanding the underlying pathophysiology, she may have been treated with a benzodiazepine or even an antidepressant. These medications would not have been treating the underlying cause of her symptoms, may have been wholly ineffective and would have come with a whole list of side effects. She has tolerated the ARB and has complete control of her tachycardia.

    I am not saying that my daughter is a victim. She doesn’t share in the sins of her ancestors (Ezek 18:2-3), nor does she share their guilt. But, neither is she unaffected.

  4. D. Stevenson

    The responses to the referenced blog article are also fascinating. A number of questions are raised. I especially like the question that asks if this change can be reversed. I imagine many more studies will be done in this area. The original article doesn’t analyze the weaknesses of their study (the most obvious being small sample size) or suggest questions raised by their study, unlike psychology articles about quantitative studies. This field must have different requirements for research articles.

    Research considerations aside and on to the question mused on in this post – it is an interesting connect to the ‘sins of the fathers.’ I don’t think I would have made that connect. That verse came into my mind recently as I was reading articles about the effects on the children and grandchildren of holocaust survivors. I’ve previously thought that it is behavioral change resulting from trauma that affects future generations. (* Momentarily ignoring that our bodies also affect our behavior)

    It makes sense that trauma also affects our body and that those changes can also be passed onto the next generation. I think dogmatism on which is what in terms of human responsibility is treading dangerous ground. Only God truly knows our hearts and our handicaps.

    Regarding the term “victim.” It is reality. There is no need to equate it with “I am a victim therefore I am without excuse in everything, or I am a victim and that has permeated every aspect of my life.”

    Let’s say I was brutally robbed and beaten. In the process the bones in the right side of my face were crushed and I am now blind in that eye. I also suffered some brain damage that limits my abilities to do certain things. Was I a victim? Yes. Are there parts of my life that will never be the same? Yes. Was this an evil act that happened to me? Yes.

    I think Romans 12:21 relates to these things.
    Romans 12:21 “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

    I wonder how that relates to 1 John 1:5 and how that relates to 1 Peter 1:7

    A final note about how we deal with those who have been victims of evil. — It would wound my heart terribly if a person began telling me about God’s blessings, etc. yet they hadn’t taken the time to sit with me in my pain and “cry” with me.

    When a little child falls and skins their knee we hold them and soothe them through their tears. That is their need during that time. Why would it be any different with adults?

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