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Home / Sex and Relationship / Here’s how experiencing violence and adversity at early age can affect the brain

Here’s how experiencing violence and adversity at early age can affect the brain

Those who face poverty have a much higher risk of being exposed to violence and suffering from a lack of social support, which can have long-term consequences including higher rates of diabetes, cancer, and other diseases.

sex-and-relationships Updated: Jan 19, 2020 16:52 IST
Asian News International
Asian News International
Washington D.C. [USA]
Those who face poverty have a much higher risk of being exposed to violence and suffering from a lack of social support.
Those who face poverty have a much higher risk of being exposed to violence and suffering from a lack of social support.(UNSPLASH)

A research study has shown that childhood adversity is a significant problem in the US, especially for children growing up in poverty. Those who face poverty have a much higher risk of being exposed to violence and suffering from a lack of social support, which can have long-term consequences including higher rates of diabetes, cancer, and other diseases.

According to the study led by Christopher Monk and Leigh Goetschius, people exposed to childhood adversity may also be more likely to have brain changes in adolescence.

However, social support may act as a buffer and reduce the negative effects of early-life stress.

The researchers analysed data gathered from 177 youth aged 15-17 who had taken part in a study that had collected data about the participants since birth. Roughly 70% of students were African-Americans and nearly half lived below the poverty line.

The researchers scanned the brains of the participants with MRI, focusing on the white matter connectivity between several key areas: the amygdala, which is known to play a role in fear and emotion-processing, and specific regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Earlier work by this research team established that reduced connectivity between the two brain regions is linked to a heightened response to threats by the amygdala.

The scans suggested a link between violence exposure and social deprivation in childhood. When the children in the study experienced more violence such as abuse, exposure to intimate partner violence, or neighbourhood violence and social deprivation such as child neglect, lack of neighbourhood cohesion, and a lack of maternal support, the researchers noted a decrease of a link between amygdala and PFC in younger years.

Neither variable was on its own linked to brain changes. When a child experienced violence but also had social support, the reduced connectivity wasn’t evident. The same was true when a child experienced social deprivation but no violence.

Christopher Monk said: “The implication is that social deprivation may exacerbate the effects of childhood violence exposure when it comes to these white matter connections. Social support, on the other hand, may act as a buffer.”

The researchers were surprised to find no correlation between differences in the brain and psychological problems like depression or anxiety.

However, as issues in mental health frequently occur during the transition from puberty to the 20s, the team aims to follow up with the study participants to track mental health to assess whether connections between reactions to abuse, social inequality and brain changes persist.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)

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