Neuroscientists over the last few decades have discovered how trauma and fear affect the brain, especially the impact of experiences on child neurodevelopment.  The brain adjusts to patterned-repetitive experiences that are understood through our senses.  Nurturing environments result in healthy growth, while traumatic experiences result in unhealthy neurodevelopment.

The Trauma and Attachment Report had the opportunity to interview Psychological Associate Kimberley Shilson, author of Benjee and His Brain, to learn how traumatic experiences have a physiological effect on brain development.


Q:  How is the brain affected by psychologically traumatic life events, and how is it affected long-term?

A:  Research is increasingly showing that psychological trauma impacts such brain areas as the amygdala (involved in emotion management), and the hippocampus (involved in memory and memory consolidation).  If trauma occurs repeatedly or over a prolonged period, cortisol (a hormone released during times of stress) is released too much, subsequently activating the amygdala and causing even more cortisol to be released.  It is a self-perpetuating cycle that leaves the individual with heightened sympathetic arousal (“fight” or “flight” response).  Research has shown that the hippocampus shrinks in volume in individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can have negative effects on memory.

Q:  How does treatment itself affect the brain?

A:  Repeated new experiences can, in a sense, rewire the brain, given the brain’s natural neuroplasticity.  These new experiences can facilitate reorganization of the brain.  Models such as Sensorimotor Psychotherapy work from a bottom-up approach, meaning the focus is first placed on increasing awareness of physiological sensations.

To learn more about Kim and the neuroscience behind trauma visit:


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