|Title / Titel||Emotional, psychosocial and physical consequences of adverse childhood experiences|
|Abstract (PDF, 14 KB)|
|Original title / Originaltitel||Emotionale, psychosoziale und körperliche Folgen belastender Kindheitserfahrungen|
|Summary / Zusammenfassung||The study has three parts:
1. The epigenetics of childhood trauma
Background: Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are important risk factors for the development of psychiatric disorders. ACE can severely affect mental health of exposed individuals throughout their lifespan and can also have an impact on their descendants. There is increasing evidence that epigenetic mechanisms are implicated in the long-term consequences of ACE and their transmission to the following generations. To gain insight into these mechanisms, the laboratory of Neuroepigenetics of Isabelle Mansuy (University and ETH Zurich) developed a mouse model of ACE to study the consequences on brain functions and the epigenome across generations. It has been shown that exposure to ACE induces depressive, antisocial, and risk-taking behaviors as well as memory deficits across generations, and that these symptoms are associated with alterations in DNA methylation and several non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) – epigenetic regulators of genome activity – in different tissues across generations. Based on these findings, the present study aims to examine whether ncRNAS are altered in humans who have been exposed to ACE, to identify which ncRNAs are the most affected, and to investigate whether these alterations are associated with psychiatric symptoms in adulthood.
Methods: Saliva from adults who have experienced either neglect or emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse, and from adult control subjects will be collected. Candidate ncRNAs known to be altered in the mouse model of ACE will be measured in the saliva samples. Moreover, diagnostic interviews will be conducted with all participants to assess the ACE history and psychiatric symptoms.
Results: The non-invasive identification of ncRNAs altered by ACE in adults is expected to provide biomarkers for better diagnosis of pathologies associated with ACE, and for potential treatment monitoring. They will also provide important validated molecular targets for further research on the mechanisms of expression and inheritance of ACE-related conditions.
2. Facial expressivity and facial emotion recognition in adults with adverse childhood experiences
Background: Everyday interactions are based on the ability to recognize emotional states in other people. Facial expressions are especially important cues for emotional states. Therefore the perception and correct interpretation of these cues are of outmost importance for the building and maintenance of interpersonal relationships. It is known that adverse childhood experiences (ACE) can interfere with the learning of emotion processing and regulation. However, little research exists on the specific association between neglect or abuse and emotion recognition.
Methods: Our project uses experimental paradigms to replicate and expand previous findings of impaired emotion recognition in adults with neglect or abuse compared to adults without ACE. In addition, we will examine whether the predicted deficits in emotion recognition are linked to an attenuated facial expressivity (electromyography) or to certain patterns of gaze direction (eye tracking). Our results shall help identify deficits in emotional processing correlated with neglect and abuse.
Results: Our results shall help identify deficits in emotional processing correlated with ACE. They could provide a basis for the development of specific interventions to promote better emotion processing in people with ACE. Such interventions might contribute to successful relationships, support resilience and lessen the negative consequences of adverse experiences.
3. Physical and psychological reactions to emotional and sexual intimacy in adults with adverse childhood experiences
Background: Intimate relationships are linked to physical and mental well-being. It is known that adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are related to fear of intimacy and dysfunctional intimate relationships. However, only few studies have assessed the effects of ACE on self-perceived intimacy and physiological correlates of intimate interactions. The project uses experimental paradigms to assess how adults with and without a history of neglect or abuse during childhood respond to emotional and physical/sexual intimacy.
Methods: We will assess if adults with neglect or abuse differ from adults without ACE regarding their emotional (negative and positive affect, self-rating and voice analysis) and physiological (electrodermal activity, heart rate, respiratory sinus arrhythmia) responses to experimentally induced emotional and physical/sexual intimacy. Moreover, we will assess whether emotional and physiological responses are related to one another and whether they are related to the self-reported extent of intimacy in participants’ romantic relationships. In addition, we will assess whether the size and permeability of participants’ personal space depends on the presence of ACE.
Results: Our results shall help identify differences in the experience of intimate interactions in adults with and without ACE. This could provide a basis for the development of interventions aiming at supporting individuals with ACE to develop positive intimate relationships. Such interventions might contribute to successful relationships, support resilience and lessen the negative consequences of adverse experiences.
|Project leadership and contacts /
Projektleitung und Kontakte
|Funding source(s) /
|No project-specific funding
|Duration of Project / Projektdauer||Oct 2017 to Dec 2019|