Child abuse leaves a long-lasting mark on brain: study
Agencies : Washington, Tue Feb 14 2012, 18:41 hrs
Abuse and maltreatment during childhood can shrink important parts of the brain that could lead to psychiatric disorders like depression, drug addiction and other mental health problems later in life, according to
The link between childhood abuse and reduced brain volume in parts of the hippocampus could help find new, better ways to treat survivors of childhood abuse, the scientists said.
"These results may provide one explanation for why childhood abuse has been identified with an increased risk for drug abuse or psychosis," study researcher Martin Teicher of Harvard University told LiveScience.
"Now that one can look at these sub-regions in the brain, we can get a better idea of what treatments are helping."
For their study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, Teicher and his team used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of 193 individuals between 18 and 25 years old, who had already undergone several rounds of testing to be qualified.
They then analysed the size of areas in the hippocampus and compared the results with the patient's history.
It was found that those who had been abused, neglected or maltreated based on well-established questionnaires as children had reduced volume in certain areas of hippocampus by about six per cent, compared with kids who hadn't experienced child abuse.
They also had size reductions in a related brain area, called the subiculum, which relays the signals from the hippocampus to other areas of the brain, including the
dopamine system, also known as the brain's "reward centre".