Childhood trauma, BDNF Va166Met and subclinical psychotic experiences. Attempt at replication in two independent samples

Marta de Castro-Catala, Martine van Nierop, Neus Barrantes-Vidal, Paula Cristobal-Narvaez, Tamara Sheinbaum, Thomas R. Kwapil, Elionora Pena, Nele Jacobs, Catherine Derom, Evert Thiery, Jim van Os, Ruud van Winkel, Araceli Rosa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Childhood trauma exposure is a robust environmental risk factor for psychosis. However, not all exposed individuals develop psychotic symptoms later in life. The Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) Va166Met polymorphism (rs6265) has been suggested to moderate the psychosis-inducing effects of childhood trauma in clinical and nonclinical samples. Our study aimed to explore the interaction effect between childhood trauma and the BDNF Va166Met polymorphism on subclinical psychotic experiences (PEs). This was explored in two nonclinical independent samples: an undergraduate and technical training school student sample (n = 808, sample 1) and a female twin sample (n = 621, sample 2). Results showed that childhood trauma was strongly associated with positive and negative PEs in nonclinical individuals. A BDNF Va166Met x childhood trauma effect on positive PEs was observed in both samples. These results were discordant in terms of risk allele: while in sample 1 Val allele carriers, especially males, were more vulnerable to the effects of childhood trauma regarding PEs, in sample 2 Met carriers presented higher PEs scores when exposed to childhood trauma, compared with Val carriers. Moreover, in sample 2, a significant interaction was also found in relation to negative PEs. Our study partially replicates previous findings and suggests that some individuals are more prone to develop PEs following childhood trauma because of a complex combination of multiple factors. Further studies including genetic, environmental and epigenetic factors may provide insights in this field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-129
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Childhood trauma
  • BDNF Va166Met
  • Psychosis
  • Psychotic experiences
  • Gene-environment interaction
  • Psychosis proneness

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