The Synaptic Bases of Mental Diseases

Link between childhood trauma and symptoms of psychosis

trauma during childhood

Two teams from the CHUV Department of Psychiatry are publishing results indicating the important role of antioxidants in preventing the harmful consequences of childhood trauma in psychosis.

The team of Prof. Kim Do, Director of the Centre for Psychiatric Neurosciences (CNP), has been working for many years to better understand the factors that contribute to the development of schizophrenia.

In collaboration with the team of Prof. Philippe Conus, Head of the General Psychiatry Department, Dr. Luis Alameda, psychiatrist, Margot Fournier and Ines Khadimallah, both neurobiologists at the CNP, focused their research on approximately 100 patients in the Early Psychotic Disorders Treatment and Intervention Program (TIPP). They focused mainly on patients who had experienced childhood trauma (emotional, physical, sexual abuse), a subgroup that represents about 25% of the cohort.

In the article published on November 19, 2018 in the PNAS journal (see ref. below), they report that patients with deregulated antioxidant (or redox) systems in neurons have more pronounced neuroanatomical alterations and clinical manifestations of the disease. Indeed, in the event of redox imbalance, highlighted by a blood test, the volume of their hippocampus –an important brain structure for cognition– is smaller and cognitive deficits as well as clinical symptoms are more severe.

These results suggest that a functional redox system can limit the impact of childhood trauma in these patients, and that rebalancing these systems could become an important therapeutic target in psychosis. This discovery is particularly important as it is one of the first steps towards an adaptation of treatments according to blood biomarkers in psychiatry.


The directors of the Centre for Psychiatric Neurosciences and the Department of General Psychiatry would like to take this opportunity to thank the patients who participated in this research.


Author : Kim Do-Cuénod, CHUV-CNP (FR version >)
Translation : Tania Secalin with the help of

Reference :

Alameda L, Fournier M, Khadimallah I, Griffa A, Cleusix M, Jenni R, Ferrari C, Klauser P, Baumann PS, Cuenod M, Hagmann P, Conus P, Do KQ;
Redox dysregulation as a link between childhood trauma and psychopathological and neurocognitive profile in patients with early psychosis.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, pii: 201812821, [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1812821115 >

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