Studies report early childhood trauma takes visible toll on brain

October 16, 2012

Trauma in infancy and childhood shapes the brain, learning, and behavior, and fuels changes that can last a lifetime, according to new human and animal research released today. The studies delve into the effects of early physical abuse, socioeconomic status (SES), and maternal treatment. Documenting the impact of early trauma on brain circuitry and volume, the activation of genes, and working memory, researchers suggest it increases the risk of mental disorders, as well as heart disease and stress-related conditions in adulthood.

The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2012, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world's largest source of emerging news about and health.

Today's findings show:

  • Physical abuse in early childhood may realign communication between key "body-control" brain areas, possibly predisposing adults to cardiovascular disease and (Layla Banihashemi, PhD, abstract 691.12, see attached summary).
  • Rodent studies provide insight into brain changes that allow tolerance of pain within mother-pup attachment (Regina Sullivan, PhD, abstract 399.19, see attached summary).
  • Childhood poverty is associated with changes in working memory and attention years later in adults; yet training in childhood is associated with improved cognitive functions (Eric Pakulak, PhD, abstract 908.04, see attached summary).
  • experienced by infant primates leads to fearful and aggressive behaviors; these are associated with changes in stress hormone production and in the development of the amygdala (Mar Sanchez, PhD, abstract 691.10, see attached summary).
Another recent finding discussed shows that:
  • Parent education and income is associated with children's , including structures important for memory and emotion (Suzanne Houston, MA, see attached speaker's summary).
"While we are becoming fully aware, in general, of the devastating impact that early life adversity has on the developing brain, today's findings reveal specific changes in targeted brain regions and the long-lasting nature of these alterations," said press conference moderator Bruce McEwen, PhD, from The Rockefeller University, an expert on stress and its effects on early brain development. "In doing so, this research points not only to new directions for the improved detection and treatment of resulting cognitive impairment, mental health disorders, and chronic diseases, but also emphasizes the importance of preventing early life abuse and neglect in the first place."

Explore further: Developing brain is source of stability and instability in adolescence

Related Stories

Developing brain is source of stability and instability in adolescence

October 15, 2012
The brain's "reward system," those brain circuits and structures that mediate the experience and pursuit of pleasure, figured prominently in several studies. The studies shed light on adolescents' ability to control impulsivity ...

New research reveals more about how the brain processes facial expressions and emotions

October 15, 2012
Research released today helps reveal how human and primate brains process and interpret facial expressions, and the role of facial mimicry in everything from deciphering an unclear smile to establishing relationships of power ...

New tools for Alzheimer's may aid early diagnosis and treatment

October 15, 2012
Curtailing the imminent rise in Alzheimer's disease (AD) will require early, accurate diagnostic tests and treatments, and researchers are closer to achieving these two goals. New findings in medical imaging, molecular analysis ...

Recommended for you

Gene mutation causes low sensitivity to pain

December 13, 2017
A UCL-led research team has identified a rare mutation that causes one family to have unusually low sensitivity to pain.

Scientists discover blood sample detection method for multiple sclerosis

December 13, 2017
A method for quickly detecting signs of multiple sclerosis has been developed by a University of Huddersfield research team.

Activating MSc glutamatergic neurons found to cause mice to eat less

December 13, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A trio of researchers working at the State University of New York has found that artificially stimulating neurons that exist in the medial septal complex in mouse brains caused test mice to eat less. In ...

LLNL-developed microelectrodes enable automated sorting of neural signals

December 13, 2017
Thin-film microelectrode arrays produced at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have enabled development of an automated system to sort brain activity by individual neurons, a technology that could open the door ...

Intermittent fasting found to increase cognitive functions in mice

December 12, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—The Daily Mail spoke with the leader of a team of researchers with the National Institute on Aging in the U.S. and reports that they have found that putting mice on a diet consisting of eating nothing every ...

Discovery deepens understanding of brain's sensory circuitry

December 12, 2017
Because they provide an exemplary physiological model of how the mammalian brain receives sensory information, neural structures called "mouse whisker barrels" have been the subject of study by neuroscientists around the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.