Can Childhood Stress Cause Parkinson's Disease?

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Klara Hatinova

Klara Hatinova

Klara is postgraduate researcher in experimental psychology at the
University of Oxford.

Can Childhood Stress Cause Parkinson's Disease?

Yes, early life stress may increase the risk of developing Parkinson's disease (PD). Early life stress may include maternal separation, malnutrition, or physical harm, although it may also be more subtle, encompassing brief experiences, falls, or psychological trauma. Some of these stressful experiences in early life may influence brain development and increase susceptibility to neurodegeneration [1]. This may happen through adaptation of the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, or by altering DNA expression patterns.

Another mediating factor between early life stress and PD is depression, where early life stress increases the risk of depression, and depression increases the risk of developing PD [2]. This connection may be mediated by the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, specifically by the reduction of dopamine in the substantia nigra and basal ganglia [2, 3].

Therefore, there are several plausible mechanisms through which early life stress may cause PD, but early life stress is not strictly predictive of a PD diagnosis later in life.

Klara Hatinova

Klara Hatinova

Klara is a postgraduate researcher in experimental psychology at the University of Oxford. She has worked across a spectrum of hot topics in neuroscience, including her current project measuring reinforcement learning strategies in Parkinson’s disease. Previously, she studied the efficacy of psilocybin as a therapy for critical mental health conditions and examined molecular circadian rhythms of migraine disorders. She completed her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at the University of Glasgow and participated in a year abroad at the University of California, where she worked on a clinical trial for spinal cord injury.