Physiological response to stress has been linked to a variety of healthy and pathological conditions. The current study conducted a multilevel examination of interactions among environmental toxins (i.e., neighborhood crime and child maltreatment) and specific genetic polymorphisms of the endothelial nitric oxide synthase gene (eNOS) and GABA(A) receptor subunit alpha-6 gene (GABRA6). One hundred eighty-six children were recruited at age 4. The presence or absence of child maltreatment as well as the amount of crime that occurred in their neighborhood during the previous year were determined at that time. At age 9, the children were brought to the lab, where their physiological response to a cognitive challenge (i.e., change in the amplitude of the respiratory sinus arrhythmia) was assessed and DNA samples were collected for subsequent genotyping. The results confirmed that complex Gene × Gene, Environment × Environment, and Gene × Environment interactions were associated with different patterns of respiratory sinus arrhythmia reactivity. The implications for future research and evidence-based intervention are discussed.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by NIMH Grant R01 MH074943-01A1 (to J.T.M. and M.L.). The authors gratefully acknowledge Fred Rogosch and Elizabeth Handley (Mt. Hope Family Center) for their help with the genetic data and Dan Tylee (SUNY Upstate Medical University) for his help in editing the heart period data.
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