A genetic variant known to affect Alzheimer’s disease risk has now been implicated in more severe psychiatric symptoms for those with traumatic brain injuries. (Photo: ©iStock/jxfsy)

By Tristan Horrom
VA Research Communications

A variant of the APOE gene may be linked to worse psychiatric symptoms in people who have had a traumatic brain injury, found a VA San Diego Healthcare System study. Study participants with both the gene variant and at least one TBI had more severe symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression than comparison participants.

The results appeared in the Feb. 20, 2018, issue of the Journal of Neurotrauma.

TBI has long been connected with increased risk of psychiatric disorders such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety. A past study of more than 13,000 Veterans by the Minneapolis VA Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research found that more than 80 percent of those who had suffered a TBI also had a diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder. The same study found that Veterans who had a TBI were three times more likely to have PTSD than those who had not.

The new San Diego study also found that patients with TBI had greater PTSD, depression, and anxiety symptoms than those without. The researchers sought to build on that finding by delving into the biological link between TBI exposure and psychiatric disorders.

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