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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2011 Aug;35(8):1771-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.11.008. Epub 2010 Dec 8.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), genetic polymorphisms and neurochemical correlates in experimentation with psychotropic drugs among adolescents.

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Addiction Treatment Centre, Local Health Unit, Biella, Italy.


Epidemiological and clinical data show frequent associations between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and substance abuse susceptibility particularly in adolescents. A large body of evidences suggests that the possible dysregulation of neuroendocrine responses as well as neurotransmitters function induced by childhood traumatic experiences and emotional neglect could constitute one of the essential biological changes implementing substance abuse vulnerability. Moreover, genotype variables and its environment interactions have been associated with an increased risk for early onset substance abuse. In this paper we present several data that support the hypothesis of the involvement of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in mediating the combined effect of early adverse experiences and gene variants affecting neurotransmission. The presented data also confirm the relationship between basal plasma levels of cortisol and ACTH, on the one hand, and retrospective measures of neglect during childhood on the other hand: the higher the mother and father neglect (CECA-Q) scores are, the higher the plasma levels of the two HPA hormones are. Furthermore, such positive relationship has been proved to be particularly effective and important when associated with the "S" promoter polymorphism of the gene encoding the 5-HTT transporter, both in homozygote and heterozygote individuals.

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