Childhood Abuse: A Neurobiological Perspective Webinar

Date:  November 12, 2010

Time:  12 pm PST, 3 pm EST

Speaker:  Dr. Martin Teicher

Exposure to childhood adversity increases the risk of developing mood, anxiety, personality, substance abuse and psychotic disorders.  Recent studies suggest that clinical sequelae may stem, at least in part, from enduring adverse effects on brain development.  The psychiatric consequences likely depend on genetic predisposition, frequency, severity and multiplicity of the stressors, gender, and timing of the insult.  Generally, early onset and longer duration of abuse have been associated with greater morphological change, but this may be an oversimplification.  An alternative hypothesis is that stress-susceptible brain regions have their own unique sensitive periods (or windows of vulnerability) to the effects of early stress.  Further, some of the adverse consequences of exposure to early stress may remain hidden until they are unmasked by subsequent maturational events.  Research will be reviewed highlighting the effects of childhood abuse on the development of the hippocampus, white matter tracts, and cortical regions.  Evidence will be presented identifying sensitive periods in which specific brain regions are most vulnerable to the effects of early stress.  Data will also be presented showing that there is, on average, a 9-year gap between onset of exposure to childhood sexual abuse and emergence of major depression, which can be tied to the effects of early stress on trajectories of brain development.  Finally, comparisons will be made between the regional neurobiological effects of exposure to different forms of early adversity, including:  sexual abuse, witnessing domestic violence, parental verbal aggression, and harsh corporal punishment.  These studies will show that in addition to the effects of early trauma on stress-sensitive brain region, that childhood maltreatment also impacts the development of sensory systems most directly tied to the nature of the abuse.

The recording of this webinar is available online.

To view the presenters’ slides:

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