Monday, August 27, 2012

Child Abuse and Brain Changes

Can childhood abuse impact the brain? Apparently it not only can, but does, in a myriad of different ways. Studies by reserchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada appear to correlate abuse during childhood with changes to the brain (e.g., genes that code for cortisol receptors were about forty percent less active in people who had been abused as children than in those who had not). Over the past decade or so, researchers at McGill U have shown correlations between affectionate mothering in animals and altered gene expression of genes that allowed them to dampen their physiological response to stress. These latest studies seem to show that a smiliar effect appears in human brains, as well.  Results of fMRI studies have shown that the brains of children raised in violent families resemble the brains of soldiers exposed to combat. As adults, children who were abused in childhood tend to exhibit high levels of aggression, anxiety, depression, and other behavioral problems. It’s as if they’re primed to perceive threat and anticipate pain, adaptations that may be helpful in abusive environments but which produce long-term problems with stress and anxiety.

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