September 3, 2015 9:00 — 0 Comments

Maltreated Children’s Brains Show Ability to Regulate Emotion

In a study recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, a team of researchers from the University of Washington analyzed the brains of maltreated adolescents when they viewed emotional images in order to understand if maltreatment has an impact on the brain regions involved in emotion control. The study involved 42 boys and girls ages 13 to 19, half of whom had been physically and/or sexually abused. Using magnetic resonance imaging, the researchers tracked the teens’ brain activity as they were shown a series of photographs, both negative and positive. “The question is, do we see differences in the brain in terms of how it responds to emotional information in kids who have been maltreated?” said the lead research of the study. The answer, the researchers concluded, is yes. The positive images generated little difference in brain activity between the two groups. But when looking at negative images, the maltreated teens had more activity in brain regions involved in identifying potential threats — including the amygdala, which plays a key role in processing emotions and learning about environmental threats — when compared to the control group. The negative photos caused the maltreated teens’ brains to go into overdrive, drawing more heavily on regions in the prefrontal cortex to tamp down their feelings. To read more about this study, click here.

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