The Dutch Brain Foundation (Hersenstichting) awards 600,000 Euros to psychiatrist and researcher Christiaan Vinkers (Amsterdam UMC) and professor Onno Meijer (LUMC ) for research into the treatment of depression after childhood trauma. The aim of the study is to see whether mifepristone, a medicine that has been used outside of psychiatry for years, can treat this specific form of depression.

“In many cases, depression can be treated well, but childhood trauma is a major problem,” says Vinkers. “Standard depression treatments, such as antidepressants and psychotherapy, do not work very well in this group. This is why new treatment options are needed for the group of patients who have experienced severe childhood trauma in the form of neglect or abuse.”

Laboratory research has shown that the effects of childhood trauma in adulthood can be reversed by briefly blocking an important stress protein, the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and thus resetting the stress system. Youth trauma ensures that the stress system and the stress protein GR are overburdened, which disrupts the stress and immune system at a young age. This biological disorder continues to exist throughout life and makes someone more susceptible to depression. “Current research must show whether the medicine mifepristone can also tackle the effects of childhood trauma in humans by resetting the stress system,” said Vinkers. “If this is the case, the treatment can be easily implemented in clinical practice. The medicine is already available in the Netherlands and is being used successfully outside of psychiatry.”

Read more on the website of the Hersentichting (in Dutch).