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Mood Disorder More Likely In Girls Affected By Trauma Than Boys – Childhood Trauma Recovery

Mood Disorder More Likely In Girls Affected By Trauma Than Boys

“If you are a girl who has had adverse childhood experiences and these brain connections are weaker, you might expect that in just about any stressful situation you encounter as life goes on, you may experience a greater level of fear and anxiety.”

Research conducted by Herringa et al. (2014) has discovered that young people (both boys and girls) who have experienced significant, ongoing childhood trauma have weaker neural connections between a region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex and another region known as the hippocampus

Additionally, girls who had experienced significant, ongoing childhood trauma had weaker neural connections between the prefrontal cortex and a brain area known as the amygdala.

What Are The Functions Of These Brain Regions?

Let’s look at the functions of the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala in turn:

  • THE PREFRONTAL CORTEX:

The prefrontal cortex is involved with functions that include impulse control, comprehension, reasoning.

  • THE HIPPOCAMPUS:

The hippocampus is involved in functions that include learning, spatial awareness and social behavior (including the judgment of the character of others), and storage of long-term memories. It is a particularly vulnerable part of the brain and damage to its development is associated with a number of psychiatric conditions.

  • THE AMYGDALA:

The amygdala is part of the limbic system and is involved in memory and a range of emotions, in particular the processing of fear-inducing and threatening stimuli and activation of the fight/flight/freeze/fawn responses.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE PREFRONTAL CORTEX AND THE AMYGDALA:

The prefrontal-cortex-amygdala relationship plays an essential role in determining how emotionally reactive we’re likely to be to the things that happen to us in our day-to-day life, and how likely we are to perceive these events as stressful or dangerous.

According to Herringa:

“If you are a girl who has had adverse childhood experiences and these brain connections are weaker, you might expect that in just about any stressful situation you encounter as life goes on, you may experience a greater level of fear and anxiety.”

Girls with these weakened neural connections, Herringa found, stood at a higher risk for developing anxiety and depression by the time they reached late adolescence. This may, in part, explain why females are nearly twice as likely as males to suffer from later mood disorders.

You may now wish to read: NEUROPLASTICITY: 3 WAYS THE BRAIN CAN RECOVER FROM THE DAMAGING EFFECTS OF TRAUMA

REFERENCES:

Herringa RJ, Birn RM, Ruttle PL, et al. Childhood maltreatment is associated with altered fear circuitry and increased internalizing symptoms by late adolescence. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013;110(47):19119-19124. doi:10.1073/pnas.1310766110

Rubin et al. (2014), The role of the hippocampus in flexible cognition and social behavior. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

 

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