How Childhood Stress Can Cause Depression and How We Can Prevent It

TUE, DEC 19, 2017 (56:10)

Exposure to childhood stress is one of the biggest risk factors for depression that onsets in adolescence or adulthood. But how do we identify which individuals might be more susceptible to developing depression following exposure to stress? And are there sensitive periods, or stages during a lifespan when stress is particularly harmful in increasing the risk for depression?

Dr. Erin Dunn shares examples of how her research lab is studying the role of genetic variation in shaping risk for depression, the potential ways in which stress changes our biology to make us more at risk of developing depression, and the time periods in development when stress may be more likely to “get under our skin” to increase the risk of depression.

+ BIO: Dr. Erin Dunn

Erin Dunn is a social and psychiatric epidemiologist with expertise in genetics. Her research uses interdisciplinary approaches to better understand the social and genetic factors that influence the etiology of mood disorders, with an emphasis on depression among women, children, and adolescents. The goal of her work is to identify the causal mechanisms underlying risk for mood disorders, develop population-based strategies for prevention, and target these strategies to “sensitive periods,” or developmental stages in the course of the lifespan when the brain is highly “plastic” and therefore when experience, including exposure to childhood adversity, can have lasting impacts.

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