PSYC23H3 Study Guide - Final Guide: Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, Borderline Personality Disorder
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The Neurobiology of Child Abuse
Maltreatment at an early age can have enduring negative effects on a child’s brain development and function.
Story of the boy whose mother mistreated him got his hands burned for eating her boyfriends food
o recent research findings indicate that any injuries inflicted to his developing mind may never truly heal
research reveals a strong link between physical, sexual and emotional mistreatment of children and the
development of psychiatric problems.
Childhood maltreatment was understood either to foster the development of intra- psychic defense mechanisms
that proved to be self-defeating in adulthood or to arrest psychosocial development, leaving a “wounded child”
The impact of sever stress the impact of severe stress can leave an indelible imprint on its structure and function.
Such abuse, it seems, induces a cascade of molecular and neurobiological effects that irreversibly alter neural
The aftermath of childhood abuse can manifest itself at any age in a variety of ways. Internally it can appear as
de- pression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts or posttraumatic stress; it can also be ex- pressed outwardly as aggression,
impul- siveness, delinquency, hyperactivity or substance abuse.
o Strongly associated with borderline personality disorder
Various forms of maltreatment had altered the development of their limbic systems.
o The limbic system is a collection of interconnected brain nuclei (neural centers) that play a pivotal role in
the regulation of emotion and memory.
o Two critically important limbic regions are the hippocampus and the amygdala, which lie below the
cortex in the temporal lobe [refer to image in text].
o The hippocampus is thought to be important in the formation and retrieval of both verbal and emotional
memories, whereas the amygdala is concerned with creating the emotional content of memory
Hippocampal harm or amygdaloid overexcitation could produce symptoms similar to those experienced by
patients with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), which sporadically disrupts the function of these brain nuclei.
During TLE seizures, patients remain conscious while experiencing a range of psychomotor symptoms brought
on by electrical storms within these regions.
o Associated effects include the abrupt onset of tingling, numbness or vertigo; motor-related manifestations
such as uncontrollable staring or twitching; and autonomic symptoms such as flushing, nausea or the “pit
in your stomach” feeling one gets in a fast-rising elevator.
o TLE can also cause hallucinations or illusions in any of the five senses.
Abuse Driven Brain Change
Scientists wanted to see whether childhood physical, sexual or psychological abuse was associated with brain-
wave ab- normalities in electroencephalograms (EEGs)
o The irregularities arose in frontal and temporal brain regions and, to their surprise, specifically involved
the left hemi- sphere rather than both sides, as one would expect.
Subsequent work by other investigators using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology has confirmed an
association between early maltreatment and reductions in the size of the adult hippocampus. The amygdala may
be smaller as well. I
The left hippocampus of abused patients with PTSD was, on average, 12 percent smaller than the hippocampus of
the healthy control subjects, but the right hippocampus was of normal size.
o These patients also had a lower score on verbal memory tests.
REFER TO IMAGE IN READING KNOW IT BRAIN PARTS (pg 4)
Not only is the hippocampus particularly susceptible because it develops slowly, it also is one of the few brain
regions that continues to grow new neurons after birth.
o it has a higher density of receptors for the stress hormone cortisol than almost any other area of the brain.
o Exposure to stress hormones can change the shape of the largest neurons in the hippocampus and can
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