Exposure to Trauma can Lead to Alzheimer’s Disease – Study Finding

Suffering trauma can result in contracting Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), according to the findings of a doctoral study.

The research, in which rats were used as models, was undertaken by Nigerian-born Dr Samuel Faborode, who was awarded a PhD in Health Sciences (Physiology) for the work.

From early in his life, Faborode was interested in brain functions and diseases, which led to his honours and master’s degrees being focused on neuroscience.

He became aware that being involved in traumatic events such as robbery, rape, domestic violence, and xenophobic attacks could result in victims developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), increasing the chances of contracting Alzheimer’s Disease.

This stimulated his interest and led to his investigations.

He says his study findings showed reduced expression of the Bin1 gene in brain areas involved in learning and memory following trauma exposure and AD induction. Bin1 is the second most important risk factor in sporadic AD implicated in memory deficits. This suggested that Bin1 dysregulation may be involved in the link between PTSD and AD.

The findings have been published in three high-ranking peer-reviewed journals and presented at international conferences.

‘My first two years of study were very challenging emotionally and financially,’ said Faborode. ‘I did not receive any financial support from my home country and also had to leave my pregnant wife to resume my studies so I did not get to see my first child until three days before his first birthday. I struggled throughout these times as I missed my home and family. I overcame these challenges by having good friends who shared their experiences and always assured me that “this phase too shall pass”.’

He said UKZN was a ‘fantastic place to study. It offers many opportunities and a stimulating environment ideal for a rigorous degree like a PhD. I am also very grateful for the support I received from my supervisor, Professor Musa Mabandla.’

Faborode is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Stellenbosch University.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal