|Article first published as Child Abuse Affects the Brain on Technorati.|
The December issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine has reported the findings of a Yale University Study which shows that child abuse, physical and emotional impact many areas of the brain. The study included the results of the self-reported Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and brain scans of 42 teenagers, with equal numbers of caucasian and African-Americans. Four multiracial teenagers were also included in the study.
The research showed that the volume of gray matter in the brain was diminished in the teenagers who had suffered the abuse or neglect. The number of regions of the brain affected was substantial:
According to MedPageToday which reported the study findings these are the regions of the brain and some of their functions that are affected:
- Physical abuse: left dorsolateral and left rostral prefrontal cortices (executive function), right orbitofrontal cortex (emotional regulation and sense of the self), right ventral striatum (emotion and motivation), right insula (emotional intelligence), and right temporal association cortex (memory)
- Physical neglect: left rostral prefrontal cortex (executive function), right parietal association cortex (spatial perception), and bilateral cerebellum (balance)
- Emotional neglect: certain portions of the hypothalamus and midbrain, bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex(executive function), bilateral rostral prefrontal cortex (executive function), bilateral dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (cognitive function), right superior frontal gyrus (self awareness ), right orbitofrontal cortex (emotional regulation and sense of the self), bilateral striatum, bilateral amygdala (processing emotions) and hippocampus (emotions and memory), bilateral cerebellum (balance), and left parietal (perceptual difficulties and problems with speech, writing and math), right temporal (visual memory), and left occipital association cortices (integration of visual information).
Girls showed more brain deficits in areas governing emotional processing and boys were more challenged in areas of the brain responsible for impulse control.
It is apparent that substantial and comprehensive brain damage is created as a result of child abuse. When you consider all the brain regions suffering damage from the abuse, it is inevitable that the individual will have developmental difficulties if not worse. Sense of self, integration of sensory inputs, executive functioning and impulse control are all vital to effective daily functioning and human development.
It might be time to ask ourselves whether it is worth the cost in health bills, law enforcement and social problems as well as lost human capabilities to continue to ignore child abuse. Better yet, if we eliminated child abuse, what would our world look like?