This morning I happened across an an interesting article in the Bloomberg News that seemed quite relevant to class. A Harvard University study suggests that childhood abuse can lead to physiological disruptions in the hippocampus, which causes adult depression and drug abuse down the road. Young men who had histories of child abuse demonstrated differences in parts of the brain where new neurons are generated, and have less dense (up to 6.5%) hippocampus tissue, which processes emotions, fear, memory etc. Dampening activity in this part of the brain has been linked to depression and schizophrenia. In addition people who have endured this type abuse are more biologically sensitive to stress, and such factors may shorten their life expectancy by as much as 20 years, other studies indicate. On a more cheery note, it is also noted that certain drugs and lifestyle changes can prompt the formation of new neurons!
I think this was interesting in context of our conversation of genetics vs inheritance. One would assume that changes in the composition of our brain and psychiatric condition is overwhelmingly genetic. The physiological manifestation of a social phenomena (such as child abuse) is a fascinating contradiction to this genetic excuse, and instead indicates that many 'inheritable' traits, such depression may have roots in behavior. Perhaps parents who mentally and physically abuse their children have higher chances of being substance abusers or depressed, resultant from a long chain of child abuse in their family. The inheritance of child abuse! This parallels our discussion of social conditions vs genetics in the inheritance of low birth weight risk. The article briefly delves into the financial burden of child abuse on society and healthcare, which I also found interesting.