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Childhood Adversity: How A Child’s Brain Adapts

Childhood Adversity: How A Child’s Brain Adapts

Childhood Adversity: How A Child’s Brain Adapts 150 150 se_admin

We hope that our children develop into healthy and stable individuals after childhood, but sometimes that is not the case. Research has shown that approximately two-thirds of the population have experienced a form of childhood adversity by the age of 18. With so many people having experienced a form of childhood adversity, what determines if an individual emerges from childhood unscathed, while others develop serious forms of mental illness? Recent research reveals that certain brain functions in children who experience childhood adversity, plays a role in determining if they will develop various forms of mental health issues later in life.

New Research on the Effects of Childhood Adversity

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, have discovered in a new study that certain areas of the brain–such as the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala—reveal which individuals who have experienced childhood adversity are more likely to develop symptoms of various mental illnesses. 

The common types of childhood adversity researchers focused on included, negative parenting, parental conflict, and financial stress that occurred between infancy and 11 years of age. When the subjects were 15 to 18 years old, the researchers studied their behavior to look for symptoms of common mental illnesses. They also used a form of imaging to study the brain responses during emotional processing.

They found that when teens viewed images that evoked negative emotions, those who experienced childhood adversity had a strong reactive amygdala–the region of the brain involved in processing emotions. They believe that childhood adversity may sensitize certain areas of the brain to negative emotional content, which could better allow children to detect a threatening or stressful environment.

Researchers also found that childhood adversity was associated with a stronger connection between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, which is an important circuit for regulating emotions. This connection was much weaker in adolescents with high anxiety and depressive symptoms.

Researchers explain that this finding could mean that the ability of the brain to strengthen the connection between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex strengthens emotional adaptation. They hope these finding can help explain how the brain adapts to childhood adversity, and eventually predict which kids will be more vulnerable to developing mental health issues later in life.

Solstice East can help

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for girls, ages 14 to 18, grappling with teen depression, anxiety, trauma, and other emotional or behavioral issues. We strive to help our girls lead themselves back onto a path of health and happiness.

For more information about how Solstice East handles social media addiction, please call 828-484-9946!