Brain Scans Reveal How Badly Emotional Abuse Damages Kids

Our childhood determines our adulthood and many scientists are aware of this fact, but they were not sure to which degree until now. The performed brain scans revealed how much physical and emotional trauma can have an influence on a child and in its adulthood.

However, in the case of emotional abuse the attention was not so rigorous as in the case of physical trauma. Nonetheless, recent researches have showed that emotional abuse can leave detrimental effects on a person’s ability to function normally as an adult. In fact, this type of abuse and as well as general neglect, can cause the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The Professor Bruce Perry, the chief of psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital, analyzed the brain scans of an emotionally healthy child versus a neglected child. The results were unbelievable how much these scans differ in size and structure of each brain.

Dr. Perry has stated the following, quoting:

“These images illustrate the negative impact of neglect on the developing brain. In the CT scan on the left is an image from a healthy three-year-old with an average head size.

The image on the right is from a three-year-old child suffering from severe sensory-deprivation neglect. His child’s brain is significantly smaller than average and has enlarged ventricles and cortical atrophy.”

In other words, the brain of a child that has experienced an emotional abuse is visibly smaller with noticeable spaces within its structure. This structural damage to the brain of the affected child could lead to memory issues and delays in its proper development.

This abuse also reflects in their adulthood by not being able to establish a healthy relationship with other human being. It is most likely that these children may develop attachment disorders or become overly dependent on a particular person. This “cortical atrophy” is a condition common in Alzheimer’s patients.

Further on, Dr. Perry explains, quoting:

“Healthy development of the neural systems which allow optimal social and emotional functioning depends upon attentive, nurturing caregiving in infancy and opportunities to form and maintain a diversity of relationships with other children and adults throughout childhood.”

PTSD must be dealt with as soon as possible, especially at an early age as it can seriously affect the development and functionality of the hippocampus thereby leading to issues such as memory problems, developmental delays, uncontrollable emotions, and attachment issues.

Another team of researchers at Stanford University analyzed how PTSD affects children. They used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) on two groups of youngsters in the age range of 10 to 17 years old. In these groups 16 participants experienced PTSD symptoms and the other 11 participants did not have any PTSD symptoms.

The conclusion of this study was that the children with PTSD and with high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, had higher chances of a decrease in the size of their hippocampus. Here it is what the researchers stated:

 “The hippocampus worked equally well in stressed and control subjects when the word list was first introduced. However, subjects with PTSD symptoms made more errors on the recall part of the test and showed less hippocampus activity than control subjects doing the same task.”

A member of this research team, Dr. Victor Carrion, a child psychiatrist from the hospital, concluded the following, quoting:

“Although everyday levels of stress are necessary to stimulate normal brain development, excess levels can be harmful. We’re not talking about the stress of doing your homework or fighting with your dad.”We’re talking about traumatic stress. These kids feel like they’re stuck in the middle of a street with a truck barreling down at them.”

Children who had the worst hippocampus function were liable to a specific set of PTSD symptoms that were related to as “avoidance and numbing” symptoms of PTSD, including lack of emotion, difficulty remembering the experienced trauma, and experiencing the feeling of being cut off from others.

Teachers or the caregiver of a small child should know all the symptoms of PTSD so that they can be of great help to children who have been neglected and emotionally abused. Plus, this information will help them to effectively clear a situation, and successfully assist in the healthy development of the affected child.