Biological Embedding of Experience

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Speaker: Prof. Robert Kumsta
Event date: Wednesday, 08 February 2023 11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Place: Biotech II (BT2), RIKEN room - Campus Belval
6, avenue du Swing
4367 Belvaux

Biological Embedding of Experience – Long-term consequences of childhood adversity

Exposure to adverse or traumatic life events in childhood is a well-established major risk factor for developing mental health problems in adulthood. These observations raised the question of how the long-lasting health consequences of early adverse rearing conditions are sustained, or biologically embedded. The talk will give an overview of studies investigating adult populations with exposure to different kinds of adversities, including institutional deprivation and the experience of abuse and neglect in the family context. He will show that exposure to stress and adversity is consistently linked to dysregulations of the endocrine stress system and altered stress-immune interplay. Furthermore, changes to gene regulatory mechanisms have been observed, and he will present data on genome-wide mRNA and protein expression in the context of acute stress, showing that a history of childhood adversity is associated with altered gene expression profiles following stress exposure as well as altered expression of mitochondrial proteins.

The talk will end with a discussion on potential reversibility of adversity-associated effects.

Robert Kumsta was appointed Professor of Biopsychology at the University of Luxemburg in May 2021. He studied psychology at the University of Trier, Germany, and received his Ph.D. in Psychobiology from the University of Trier in 2007. Funded by a postdoctoral fellowship from the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, he joined the Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, to study the effects of severe institutional deprivation in the English and Romanian Adoptees Study. From 2010 until 2013, he held a Research Fellow position at the Laboratory for Biological and Personality Psychology at the University of Freiburg. From 2013 to 2021, Robert Kumsta was Professor and Chair of Genetic Psychology at Ruhr University Bochum.