A new study published in the March 2008 Journal of the American Medical Association reports that early childhood trauma, such as child abuse, influences specific variations in a stress-related gene. Researchers at Emory University found that this interaction significantly increased the possibility that adult survivors of abuse would go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These findings indicate that there are points in childhood when the brain is susceptible to external, non-genetic influences, like abuse, that affect the development of an individual’s stress response system. This suggests that genetics could offer a partial explanation as to why some people develop PTSD after experiencing trauma, while others are able to recover without experiencing any lasting psychological distress. Adult abuse survivors with this specific genetic variation are at a higher risk of developing PTSD than individuals without the variation. Knowing about this genetic variation may help future identification of people who are at risk for developing PTSD and improve treatment of the disorder.