Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Child abuse changes the brain, study finds

Date:
December 6, 2011
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
When children have been exposed to family violence, their brains become increasingly "tuned" for processing possible sources of threat, a new study reports. The findings reveal the same pattern of brain activity in these children as seen previously in soldiers exposed to combat.

When children have been exposed to family violence, their brains become increasingly "tuned" for processing possible sources of threat, a new study reports. The findings, reported in the Dec. 6 issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, reveal the same pattern of brain activity in these children as seen previously in soldiers exposed to combat.

The study is the first to apply functional brain imaging to explore the impact of physical abuse or domestic violence on the emotional development of children, according to the researchers.

"Enhanced reactivity to a biologically salient threat cue such as anger may represent an adaptive response for these children in the short term, helping keep them out of danger," said Eamon McCrory of University College London. "However, it may also constitute an underlying neurobiological risk factor increasing their vulnerability to later mental health problems, and particularly anxiety."

Maltreatment is known to be one of the most potent environmental risk factors associated with anxiety and depression. Still, McCrory said, "relatively little is known how such adversity 'gets under the skin' and increases a child's later vulnerability, even into adulthood."

The new study shows that children with documented exposure to violence in the home differ in their brain response to angry versus sad faces. When presented with angry faces, children with a history of abuse show heightened activity in the brain's anterior insula and amygdala, regions involved in detecting threat and anticipating pain.

McCrory says the changes don't reflect damage to the brain. Rather, the patterns represent the brain's way of adapting to a challenging or dangerous environment. Still, those shifts may come at the cost of increased vulnerability to later stress.

Although the results may not have immediate practical implications, they are nonetheless critical given that a significant minority of children are exposed to family violence, McCrory says. "This underlines the importance of taking seriously the impact for a child of living in a family characterized by violence. Even if such a child is not showing overt signs of anxiety or depression, these experiences still appear to have a measurable effect at the neural level."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Eamon J. McCrory, Stιphane A. De Brito, Catherine L. Sebastian, Andrea Mechelli, Geoffrey Bird, Phillip A. Kelly, Essi Viding. Heightened neural reactivity to threat in child victims of family violence. Current Biology, 2011; 21 (23): R947-R948 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.10.015

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Child abuse changes the brain, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111205140400.htm>.
Cell Press. (2011, December 6). Child abuse changes the brain, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111205140400.htm
Cell Press. "Child abuse changes the brain, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111205140400.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How Nigeria Beat Its Ebola Outbreak

How Nigeria Beat Its Ebola Outbreak

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — The World Health Organization has declared Nigeria free of Ebola. Health experts credit a bit of luck and the government's initial response. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Another Study Suggests Viagra Is Good For The Heart

Another Study Suggests Viagra Is Good For The Heart

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — An ingredient in erectile-dysfunction medications such as Viagra could improve heart function. Perhaps not surprising, given Viagra's history. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Worries End for Dozens on U.S. Watch Lists

Ebola Worries End for Dozens on U.S. Watch Lists

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 20, 2014) — Forty-three people who had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., were cleared overnight of twice-daily monitoring after 21 days of showing no symptoms. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fauci: Ebola Protocols to Focus on Training

Fauci: Ebola Protocols to Focus on Training

AP (Oct. 20, 2014) — Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says he expects revised CDC protocols on Ebola to focus on training, observation and ensuring health care workers are more protected. (Oct. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins