Child Abuse Changes The Brain, Study Says

Child abuse changes the brain in the same way as soldiers who are exposed to combat, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed data from the brain scans of 43 children using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), 20 who had been exposed to family violence and 23 who had not. The study showed that those who had been exposed to family violence had more brain activity in two areas than the others when they were shown pictures of angry faces.

According to results from previous studies, those two areas of the brain – the anterior insula and the amygdala – also showed more activity in soldiers who were exposed to violent combat.

This research suggests that abused children and soldiers have both developed the same “hyperawareness” of potential dangers in their environment.

Fox News quoted Eamon McCrory of Britain's University College London, lead author of the study, as saying that this increased reactivity to a danger sign “may represent an adaptive response for these children in the short term, helping keep them out of danger."

He added that this response may also be a risk factor for mental illness later in life such as depression. More research needs to happen in order to discover how early childhood abuse and violence affects the brain.

The research was published in the journal Current Biology. 

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