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Short Term Trauma- Long Term Impact

Neurological Anomalies in Victims of Childhood Maltreatment

As the brain begins growing and maturing during childhood, it creates, strengthens, and occasionally discards neural connections, which compose a network between neurons that imbue the brain with its many functions. One’s experiences affect brain development in a similar manner as learning to speak or walk, causing certain synapses, or connections between neurons, to develop, grow stronger or break.

The growth of the brain and its eventual physical structure are significantly affected by one’s experiences, both the positive and the negative. And while experience often leads to the brain developing in ways that are beneficial, experience can also be negative, which can impede or otherwise alter the brain’s development. 

Specifically, the negative experience of childhood maltreatment is believed to be behind certain anomalies in brain structure that result in cognitive, behavioral and social impairments.

Upon an assessment of individuals who had experienced childhood maltreatment, a study found that being mistreated during childhood caused frequent and extremely high levels of stress that impeded normal brain development. Continuous stress from experiencing frequent maltreatment initiated physiological stress responses that, over time, caused the structural disruptions that were observed in neurological scans and which are likely making victims of childhood trauma vulnerable to substance abuse disorders and trouble with social and personal relationships as adults.