CBC: Trauma-induced brain changes can be detected decades later, new U of A research shows

Researchers hope the discovery can lead to more therapeutic tools to treat patients

CBC News ·

Dr. Peter Silverstone is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. (Submitted by Dr. Peter Silverstone. )

New research from the University of Alberta suggests changes to key regions of the brain caused by trauma can now be scanned and identified.

A study released on Monday is the first to show that traumatic or stressful events during a child’s early years can change sub-regions of a person’s amygdala and hippocampus, which are both partially responsible for a person’s emotional responses.

Changes brought on by traumatic events can lead to these regions not functioning as they should, which in turn can increase the risk that someone can develop mental health disorders as adults, especially during times of stress.

“People who were traumatized, the particular regions that got impacted didn’t grow as well. And that likely has left them much more vulnerable to problems later on in life,” said Dr. Peter Silverstone, a psychiatry professor at the U of A and one of the study’s co-authors.

The findings by a team of eight researchers at the U of A were published in the current issue of the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience. Thirty-five participants with major depressive disorder were recruited for this study, along with 35 others acting as control subjects.

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