A paper by researchers at Wayne State University examining the influence of genes and traumatic environment in Black American children is included in a special collection of articles selected by the journal Neuropsychopharmacology that explore disparities related to gender, race, ethnicity, LGBTQ+ individuals and early life adversity.
Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences Tanja Jovanovic, Ph.D., was the principal investigator on the article “Impact of ADCYAP1R1 genotype on longitudinal fear conditioning in children: interaction with trauma and sex,” originally published in June 2020, and now featured in the collection “Highlighting Research on Healthcare Disparities” launched this month. The collection includes 15 articles published between April 2020 and January 2021.
“I was surprised and excited that this paper was included in the special collection,” Dr. Jovanovic said. “Although I had not initially thought of it as a health disparities study, the outcomes we measured, in this case fear responses, are linked with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, so could point to increased vulnerability to mental health disorders in these children.”
Being featured brings broader awareness to the factors Dr. Jovanovic’s team studies, such as early adversity, and the impact that those can have on negative health outcomes and disparities.
Dr. Jovanovic is the David and Patricia Barron Chair for PTSD Neurobiology at WSU. Her research focuses on the interaction of traumatic experiences, neurophysiology, neuroendocrinology and genetics in stress-related disorders in adults and children in high-risk populations. She directs the Detroit Trauma Project (www.detroittraumaproject.com), which investigates the impact that urban trauma exposure has on the brain. Her research employs psychophysiological and brain imaging methods to investigate biomarkers of risk for trauma-related psychopathology, such as PTSD.
“I believe it is important for both clinicians and researchers to understand the underlying reasons for health disparities, especially in underserved populations such as Black youth,” she said.