- Introduction to Clinical Research Training
- Medical Education
- United Kingdom Clinical Scholars Research Training
- Vanderbilt Hall
- Financial Aid
- Office of the Registrar
- Student Services
- Registering for Courses
- Exchange Clerk Program for Visiting Medical Students
- Curriculum Requirements
- Student Handbook
- Being a Student at Harvard Medical School
- History of Harvard Medicine
- 1. The MD Programs at Harvard Medical School
- 2. Academic Information and Policies
- 3. Academic Resources
- 4. Student Conduct and Responsibility
- 5. Combined degree programs
- 6. Financial Obligations
- 7. General Policies
- 8. Housing and Dining Services
- 9. Student Health
- 9.01 General Information
- 9.02 Harvard University Health Services (HUHS)
- 9.03 Student Health Program
- 9.04 Work-Related HIV Benefit Plan
- 9.05 Center for Wellness
- 9.06 Reproductive Health
- 9.07 Standard Precautions
- 9.08 Disability Insurance
- 9.09 Precautions against Communicable Diseases
- 9.10 Drug and Alcohol Abuse and Dependence
- 10. Services and Programs
- Alumni Services
- Campus Planning and Facilities
- Ombuds Office
- Committee on Microbiological Safety
- Human Resources
- HMS Foundation Funds
- Office for Academic and Clinical Affairs
- Joint Committee on the Status of Women
- The Academy
- Global Health Research Core
- Global Clinical Scholars Research Training Program
- HMA Standing Committee on Animals
- Office of Research Compliance
- Global & Community Health
- Harvard Medical School Event Calendar
- Contact @HMS
- Office of Diversity RIA Program
- The Dean's Perspective
- Department of Pathology
- Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute
- OHRA Home
- Office of Research Subject Protection
- Tools and Technology
- Alumni Association
- Cancer Biology & Therapeutics Program
- Celiac Program
- HMS Community Values Initiative
- HMS Information Technology
- HMS TransMed Program
- Introduction to the Practice of American Medicine
- Office of Communications & External Relations
- Office of Global Education
- Shenzhen-HMS Initiative in International Education
- South American Clinical Research Training
- test page
- Safety Quality and Informatics Leadership
- Human Resources
- Jobs @ HMS
- Contact us
- Dental Medicine
- Harvard University
Weathering the Storm
December 6, 2013
When natural disasters unleash horrific damage and generate mass casualties, the psychological impact on survivors typically includes posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with symptoms that can range from mild and transitory to long-term duress.
Each year, 500 events throughout the world meet the Red Cross definition of ‘disaster,’ with one-fifth to one-third of survivors experiencing PTSD. Women, African-Americans, and other low-come populations are twice as likely than whites, males, and those with higher income to suffer from this condition.
While posttraumatic stress is expected after natural disasters, few survivors anticipate the positive psychological changes that they may experience – and now new research has revealed that genes may play a role.
These responses, considered posttraumatic growth, or PTG, include improved interpersonal relationships, a greater sense of new possibilities, increased personal strength, heightened spirituality, and an enhanced appreciation for life.
Recent studies have shown that 50 percent of survivors of natural disasters experience PTG, with a greater prevalence among older adults, non-Hispanic blacks, and those exposed to additional stressors.
A new study published this fall in Journal of Affective Disorders by researchers at Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital, The Broad Institute, Columbia University, and University of Massachusetts Boston has found a link between a variant in the gene RGS2 and PTG.
“Most genetic association studies examine genes as predictors of the onset or course of diseases. We tried to extend this work by examining genetic variation associated with both mental health conditions, as well resilience in the face of trauma,” said Erin C. Dunn, postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Human Genetic Research at Massachusetts General Hospital and lead author on the study.
Dunn and colleagues examined whether 10 common variants in seven genes known to correlate to psychiatric phenotypes were involved in shaping responses to Hurricane Katrina. Using data from an ongoing prospective study of over 1,000 low-income non-Hispanic black parents who resided in New Orleans prior to Katrina, they found that overall, hurricane survivors with higher levels of exposure reported more symptoms of PTSD, but did not differ in their level of PTG. They also found a significant gene-environment interaction: both genetic variation and level of exposure were predictors of PTG in survivors.
While prior studies have implicated the gene RGS2 in several anxiety disorders, results have been inconsistent.
“Our findings suggest that genes previously shown to play a role in psychiatric disorders may also be important in understanding more positive outcomes, including post-traumatic growth, following exposure to traumatic stressors,” said Dunn.
The study was supported by a pilot grant from Harvard Catalyst | The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center, which among several other resources, offers Harvard researchers pilot funding opportunities throughout the year.