Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Early Trauma Linked to Right-Brain Impairment

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Early Trauma Linked to Right-Brain Impairment

Article excerpt

SAN DIEGO -- The most profound effect of early, ongoing childhood trauma is the limited development of the right brain, which could foster a predisposition to violence, Dr. Allan N. Schore reported at a conference on treating emotional trauma sponsored by the University of California, San Diego.

Individuals with aggressive personalities, who have as their central deficit an inability to regulate emotion, display altered arousal levels in the right brain, especially when stressed, he said.

Normally, the right hemisphere processes social and emotional information. The right orbital frontal cortex modulates emotions and responds to social cues such as facial expressions. At the same time, aggression is modulated through a right-lateralized, self-regulating system that operates on a preconscious level. These systems can develop only in a secure, nurturing environment.

Through the process of "affect synchrony," a child first experiences communication by learning to modify his or her behavior in response to signals put out by the caregiver--just as the caregiver responds to signals expressed by the child, said Dr. Schore of the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles.

When an infant is stressed or over-aroused, an appropriate reparative reaction by the caregiver allows the child to develop internal self-soothing mechanisms and thus learn how to repair or regulate his or her emotional state. Children who can do this learn to become resilient in the face of trauma or stress.

These two components--affect synchrony and interactive repair--are important components of a secure parent-child bond of emotional communication. And a secure bond, in turn, "is the primary defense against emotional impairment," Dr. Schore said.

Neglect or abuse by the caregiver is characterized by both traumatizing levels of arousal in the child and no opportunity for interactive repair. …

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