Trauma’s Impact on the Brain

When a traumatic event triggers our internal alarm system, the body goes into fight, flight, or freeze . . . . . . but what happens in the brain during trauma? According to Dan Siegel, MD, there are two key chemical reactions to trauma (and one can play a role in actually shrinking part of the brain). Check out the video clip (below) for more – it’s just 4 minutes. Click here to sign up Knowing how trauma affects the brain can enhance our interventions for helping patients heal from a traumatic experience. If you want to learn more about…

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Rethinking Trauma: The Third Wave of Trauma Treatment

As someone who’s been practicing for a while, I’ve seen our view on the treatment of trauma go through substantial development. Our research, theory and treatments have all advanced considerably in the last 40 years. And as I reflect upon this, I’m seeing 3 waves in the evolution of our outlook. Looking back at when I first began to practice (in the late 70’s) our understanding of trauma was really quite limited. Of course we recognized the fight / flight response ever since Hans Selye introduced the notion back in the 50’s. But our prevailing treatment option was talk therapy….

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PTSD, the Brain, and Pain

A single traumatic experience can set off many different levels of pain, whether emotional or physical, acute or chronic. But can PTSD affect how the brain processes pain? Marla Mickleborough, MA, of the University of British Columbia and Judith Daniels, PhD, of the University of Western Ontario, wanted to find out whether the brain might actually mitigate pain in the presence of trauma. They gathered an experimental group of patients with PTSD and a control group of people who had experienced trauma but had never developed PTSD. Researchers placed the subjects in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner while…

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Resistance to PTSD: Could It Be in Your DNA?

Not everyone who experiences trauma develops PTSD. So what might be boosting the resilience of the folks who experience trauma and don’t suffer from PTSD? According to Israel Liberzon, MD, of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, genetic factors might play a role. When combined with trauma in early childhood, a tiny DNA change (or a mutation), called a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), in a gene called ADRB2 could help predict whether or not a person will be more resilient (or more susceptible) to PTSD later in life. Inside of our cells, ADRB2 plays a role in how adrenaline affects our…

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Three Ways Trauma Can Change the Brain

The treatment of trauma can be some of the most complex work practitioners face. And for years, this challenge was complicated by not having a clear picture of the impact that trauma has on the brain. But scientific advances within just the past few years have opened the eyes of practitioners to what actually happens in the brain of someone who has experienced trauma. And according to Bessel van der Kolk, MD, there are three major ways that the brain changes in response to trauma. To find out what they are (and their impact on the body), take a look…

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PTSD, the Hippocampus, and the Amygdala – How Trauma Changes the Brain

Emotional neurocircuitry . . . . . . it’s how the brain is wired for emotions. But in the brain of a person with PTSD, emotional distress could physically (and perhaps even visibly) change the neurocircuitry. In a normal brain, the interaction between the hippocampus and the amygdala is important for processing emotional memory. It’s suspected that they both change in response to experience as well. But when someone experiences trauma, do these parts of the brain change together, or are they completely independent of one another? In a recent study led by Quan Zhang, MD at China’s Tianjin Medical…

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