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Abuse Leads to Brain Changes in Children, Study Reveals

Did you know children who have a history of family violence or abuse tend to experience changes in brain activity? A new study reveals that these alterations are similar to those of combat veterans.

Lead researcher Eamon McCrory conveyed that children who are exposed to abuse displayed increased activities in the brain, particularly in the amygdala and anterior insula, when they were shown pictures of angry faces. This is a typical reaction when a person is anticipating pain or is exposed to threat.

Along with his colleagues from University College London, Mr. McCrory said abused children have a drastically tuned brain, which allows them to immediate detect danger, or at least the possibility thereof. While this phenomenon is not indicative of brain damage, researchers say it is the brain’s recourse for adapting to threatening situations or challenging environments.

To identify these changes in brain activity, the researchers used functional imaging.

“Enhanced reactivity to a biologically salient threat cue such as anger may represent an adaptive response for these children in the short term,” Mr. McCrory explained. He clarified that this reactionary consequence keeps them away from dangerous or threatening circumstances.

“However, it may also constitute an underlying neurobiological risk factor increasing their vulnerability to later mental health problems, and particularly anxiety,” he added.

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