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Childhood abuse hurts the brain

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Apotheosis

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Abuse during childhood can change the structure and function of a brain, and increase the risk of everything from anxiety to suicide.

"These changes are not limited to physical and sexual abuse; there's growing evidence that even verbal assault can alter the way a developing brain is wired," says Martin Teicher, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. The ominous effects are tied to reduction in the size of sensitive areas of the brain and to abnormal brain waves that mimic epilepsy.

A thick cable of nerve cells connecting the right and left sides of the brain (corpus callosum) is smaller than normal in abused children, Teicher told a meeting of science and medical writers at Harvard Medical School earlier this month. He and his colleagues at McLean Hospital, a psychiatric facility affiliated with Harvard, compared brain scans from 51 patients and 97 healthy children. The researchers concluded that, in boys, neglect was associated with a significant reduction in the size of the important connector. It was also abnormally small in girls who were sexually abused.

"We believe that a smaller corpus collosum leads to less integration of the two halves of the brain, and that this can result in dramatic shifts in mood and personality," Teicher explains.

Brain scans also reveal decreased activity in parts of the brain concerned with emotion and attention. Patients with a history of sexual abuse or intense verbal badgering showed less blood flow in a part of the brain known as the cerebellar vermis. The vermis aids healthy people to maintain an emotional balance, but in those with a history of childhood abuse, that stabilizing function may become impaired.

Teicher points out that the vermis is strongly influenced by the environment as opposed to genetic factors. Movement stimulates it, and researchers at the National Institutes of Health found that kids with attention deficits and hyperactivity consistently show smaller than normal sizes. Teicher and his colleagues are looking into the idea that exercise might stimulate the vermis, increasing attention span and reducing hyperactivity. They plan to test this notion by comparing rocking in a hammock with more strenuous exercises.

If exercise helps, it would have an impact on a growing trend to reduce or eliminate recess and physical education in schools. Teicher suspects that children who can burn off excess energy will be better able to sit still and pay attention.

Source [& full article] - http://www.hno.harvard.edu/gazette/2003/05.22/01-brain.html
 
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Silentwitness

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childhood abuse hurts the brain...

Hi Apotheosis,

There is alot to be said about childhood abuse hurting the brain and this was an interesting article for me to read.

I was a victim of child abuse/rape and some 23 years later I am feeling those effects. Since the abuse, and most recently (memories coming back) have suffered without realising what I was wrong with me.

In the words of my 'Psychiatrcist' I suffer from mental disorderd with symptom of anxiety, ptsd, depression, self-harming behaviours, sucidie ideation, personality disorders and most concerning for me ( and my close family ) is dissociation. I have a tendancy to dissociate quite easily (although more when under stress and anxiety) and then I have to try to recall my 'lost time' (as I put it) as I/my family know what I am capable of doing when in that state of mind.

It is strongly beleived that all these conditions have been brought on as a result of the abuse. I will try and keep an eye on this study and it may make an interesting read.

Thanks,

Silentwitness
 
ms_P

ms_P

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My hypothalamus must be the size of a grain of sand by now.
 
A

Apotheosis

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It is strongly beleived that all these conditions have been brought on as a result of the abuse. I will try and keep an eye on this study and it may make an interesting read.

Thanks,

Silentwitness
Thank you for sharing these things. There is truth in trauma having a root cause of certain emotional/mental difficulties I think. This can plainly be seen in cases of abuse, PTSD type experiences, & the many assorted effects of trauma on soldiers, to name a few examples.

There does appear to be more thought & research into these areas recently. There are some other articles I have come across. I will try & find some links, when I can.

There was trauma very early on in my life, as well as at other times. It is, for me a significant part of the jigsaw puzzle, as to why I have been unwell. I do see things as multi faceted & part of a spectrum. There is I think a complex interplay of the biological factors, genetics, brain chemistry, with complex interactions with environment & psychological factors. I don't think that these interactions are properly understood, far from it.

It could well be the case that certain brain changes as a result of stress, trauma, abuse, & certain other environmental factors; are in fact changes that take place as a kind of protection mechanism, & are natural mechanisms of the mind. It is like a kind of scar; a scar that can heal.

I think that scar tissue is a good analogy.
 
dib4uk

dib4uk

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The hardest part of abuse is that it can go onto help form mental health problems, social problems and other issues such as sexual confusions, and body image and identity.

Abuse is soo scary and it can affect everyone totally different, one persons recovery is totally different. Abuse can be systermatic and for years or it could be short term.

Silentwitness yeah i'm hearing what you say, and it mirrors what I have felt for such a long long time.
 
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Silentwitness

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Apotheosis

Thanks for the additional links and info - it all makes interesting (and heavy) reading... the more I read about the effects the abuse has had on my life and the other issues as a result of, the more I will not let it beat me or bring me down again...

dib4uk

tell me about it my friend, I battle with these issues everyday... the mental health as well as the abuse...
 
A

Apotheosis

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Apotheosis

Thanks for the additional links and info - it all makes interesting (and heavy) reading... the more I read about the effects the abuse has had on my life and the other issues as a result of, the more I will not let it beat me or bring me down again...
Good on you. We can overcome & recover I think; from whatever it may be that ails us. X
 
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