The Effects of Trauma on the Brain Posted March 14, 2012 by Heal for Life

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Childhood trauma can have devastating effects on the physical development of the core structures of the brain. The brain develops through a complex interaction between nurture (environment) and nature (genetics). It grows and develops dependent upon what it learns from the primary caregiver: “About 40 percent to 70 percent (of our brains wiring) develops based on interactions with the environment, including parents.” (Brotherson, 2005)

The brain predicts and controls outcomes based on past experiences. It is biased towards early learning, that is, it is more influenced by early experiences than later ones and it encourages us to repeat patterns of behaviour absorbed from early childhood.

In the 1990’s neuroscientists came to an understanding that child abuse caused brain damage, however since then it has been discovered that the brain can re-grow and transform despite this damage. This is called ‘plasticity’ and was first described as such by Paul Bach-y-Rita (1967). This means the brain is not static as was originally thought. It grows, alters and changes throughout life depending on what happens. 90% of all that we know about the brain has come to light only within the past 20 years. Since the development of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Positron Emission Tomography (PET),Computerised Tomography (CT) and Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI) scans there has been an explosion of discoveries involving Neuroscience and Psychology and an understanding that trauma effects the way that neurons ‘wire’ and ‘fire’ and that the brain can ‘re-wire’ itself.

One of the greatest impacts on the brain is the parenting we receive, and importantly, any trauma we suffer from. The way we are parented affects the level of impact of trauma so the two are interrelated. Our brain doubles in size in the first year of life, so the impact of all trauma is dependent upon how our brain has developed during that first vital year.

It is necessary to heal from trauma just as it is necessary to heal from diabetes or heart disease and without healing, the brain will act in a maladjusted way to life’s circumstances. Just because someone has suffered from trauma does not mean that they cannot heal. Currently the usual response to depression and mental illness is medication to cover the pain however we do not just give pain relievers to people suffering from heart disease. We try to find out how to make them better. At Heal for Life we have a model of care established to help make survivors of child abuse and trauma, better. Our healing programs are based on the latest neuroscience research, combined with anecdotal and intuitive knowledge of people who are themselves survivors of childhood trauma. Here’s what one Health Professional said about our programs:

I have been fortunate enough to witness the profound and life saving effect your program has had on one of my patients…I see your establishment as being a beacon, a unique, powerful effective program that has helped many who have been unable to be helped by mainstream mental health services.” Dr. Mark Adamski, M.B.B.S (NSW) D.R.C.O.G. (Cowra NSW)

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