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Early family experience can reverse the effects of genes, UCLA psychologists report

re bolstered by parallel evidence collected by the team showing that a supportive environment reduced the risk of depression among those with the s/s form of the 5-HTTLPR gene, while those experiencing a great deal of stress in their lives had an increased risk of depressive symptoms if they had the s/s variant of the gene. "Genes are not destiny," Taylor said. "Although some genes confer particular risks, others, such as variants of the 5-HTTLPR, are clearly highly responsive to input from the early and current environment. That means, among other conclusions, that there is an important role that parents and even friends can play in providing protection against the risk of depression that stress can confer." The study adds a new component to evidence that the environment can regulate biology and steer the effects of genetic predispositions.

"It indicates just how important a loving and caring family can be," said Baldwin Way, a co-investigator on the project. The other members of the research team, from UCLA's department of psychology and department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, are William Welch, Clayton Hilmert, Barbara Lehman and Naomi Eisenberger.

Taylor was honored Oct. 7 with the inaugural Clifton Strengths Prize, which recognizes the life and work of Donald O. Clifton, past chairman of The Gallup Organization. The prize, which will be presented every two years, recognizes groundbreaking theory, research and practice in "strengths-based psychology." Clifton's philosophy was for people to focus on what was positive and right with themselves and to build on their strengths to achieve their full potential, Gallup said. Taylor's research showing how a supportive environment reverses the impact of a genetic risk factor is an example of the work for which she was honored.

The research published in Biological Psychiatry was federally funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Science Foundation, w
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Contact: Stuart Wolpert
swolpert@support.ucla.edu
310-206-0511
University of California - Los Angeles
9-Oct-2006


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