Childhood Trauma Influences Brain Development.
Over the last twenty years, neuroscientists studying the brain have learned how fear and trauma influence the mature brain, and more recently, the developing brain. It is increasingly clear that experience in childhood has relatively more impact on the developing child than experiences later in life. This is due to the simple principles of neurodevelopment. The functional capabilities of the mature brain develop throughout life, but the vast majority of critical structural and functional organization takes place in childhood. By the age of three, the brain has reached 90% of adult size, while the body is still only about 18% of adult size. By shaping the developing brain, experiences of childhood define the adult. Neurodevelopment is characterised by (1) sequential development and ‘sensitivity’ (the brain “grows” from brainstem to the cortex) and (2) ‘use-dependent’ organization (“use it or lose it”). The mature organization and functional capabilities of the brain reflect aspects of the quantity, quality and pattern of the somato-sensory Dissociation & experiences of the first years of life. The sequential and use-dependent properties of brain development result in an amazing adaptive malleability, ensuring that, within its specific genetic potential, an individual’s brain develops capabilities suited for the ‘type’ of environment he or she is raised in. Simply stated, children reflect the world in which they are raised. If that world is characterised by threat, chaos, unpredictability, fear and trauma, the brain will reflect that by altering the development of the neural systems involved in the stress and fear response. Credit: Bruce Perry MD, PhD.
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