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How Childhood Trauma Can Make You Oversensistive To Light, Sound And Touch



Before babies and young children are able to learn through the use of language, they learn through the information they receive through their senses (i.e. taste, touch, smell, sight and sound) and by integrating this information in meaningful ways.

The main part of the brain that is responsible for putting together this sensory information in ways that facilitate learning is the CEREBELLUM, located at the back of the head.

How Childhood Trauma Can Adversely Affect The Development Of The Cerebellum : 

Neuroscientific studied suggest that the development of the cerebellum depends significantly upon the perceived security, consistency, reliability and rhythmicity of the mother’s (or primary carer’s) physical holding of the infant.

Neglect :

If the mother (or primary carer) is neglectful and does not hold the baby sufficiently frequently in a manner that transmits to him/her (i.e. the baby) feelings of deep and meaningful emotional connection, this may lead to impaired development of the cerebellum which, in turn, can lead to cerebellar dysfunction.  It is this dysfunction of the cerebellum which may then cause problems integrating sensory information (Teicher et al., 2003).
Effects Of Cerebellar Dysfunction :

Dysfunctions which may result from impaired development of the cerebellum due to the kind of neglect described above include :

  • the extreme sensitivity of touch. Examples include the affected individual  :
  • being easily irritated by ‘coarse’ feeling clothing
  • being easily made to feel uncomfortable by the touch of others (therefore the individual may feel compelled to actively avoid coming into physical contact with others and to be averse to their touch). Alternatively, s/he may crave tender, physical contact with others, as adults, in order to compensate the perceived lack of loving, nurturing touch by his/her mother (or another primary carer) in early life.
  • extreme sensitivity to light (e.g. having to wear sunglasses in conditions the vast majority of people would not feel the need to do so)
  • extreme sensitivity to sound/noise (e.g. feeling intense irritation or anger in response to small sounds that the vast majority of others would not find bothersome).
  • learning difficulties: problems organising sensory input can lead, in turn, lead to difficulties organising a cohesive sense of the world.

Also, according to Doyon (1997), the cerebellum represents the brain’s main seat of PROCEDURAL MEMORY – this is a part of long-term memory that stores information about how to do things (i.e. carry out procedures, skills and actions, both cognitive and motor, such as talking, reading, walking) and FORMS THE FOUNDATION OF ALL LEARNING.

  • lack of coordination and clumsiness
  • general impairment of self-regulation
  • rhythmic dysregulation
  • having problems relating to others


Doyon et al., Imaging Brain Plasticity during Motor Skill Learning. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 78, 553–564 (2002)

Teicher, Martin H. et al. “The neurobiological consequences of early stress and childhood maltreatment.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 27 (2003): 33-44


Noise Sensitivity (Misophonia) Treatment

David Hosier BSc Hons: MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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