Very Early Life Trauma can ‘Burn’ Memories into The Brain that are not Consciously Recollectable

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay


Most of us have no conscious memory of our experiences that occur before the age of two or older (I myself remember nothing that happened to me before the age of five and only very little indeed of what happened to me before the age of about eleven apart from highly emotionally charged, negative events. There is also a complete gap in my memory for anything at all that happened to me between the ages of six and eight – my parents divorced when I had just turned nine but whether or not this is relevant I don’t know; however, I suspect it is for reasons I may write more about at some stage in the future.


Anyway, as I said, whilst nearly everyone remembers nothing before the age of two, this does NOT mean that these very early life experiences fail to be stored in the brain. We know this due to some extraordinary research, some of which I outline below. This research provides irrefutable evidence that traumatic events that we experience before the age of two, consciously irretrievable, are, figuratively speaking, ‘BURNT INTO (Terr) the brain’ in the form of unconscious memories.


Because of these burnt in, unconscious memories we now also know that what used to be believed, i.e. as because nothing before the age of two is remembered, these have no effect upon the person’s life, are categorically mistaken.

This is illustrated by research conducted by Terr (university of California Medical Center, San Francisco. Terr’s study involved children aged 5 years-old who had experienced significant trauma (for which there existed evidence including eye witness statements and police reports) before they were 34 months old (i.e. at an age before verbal memory had developed)

Despite this, it was apparent that these children HAD retained unconscious memories of their trauma as they were reflected in their play behaviour, sometimes in their entirety.

Other research, conducted by Clifton and Myers (University of Massachusetts) has found that children exposed to mildly frightening stimuli at the age of 6 months show behavioural signs as having unconsciously remembered the experience through behavioural responses to similar stimuli at the age of 30 months.

I was confidently informed, as a child that, I would not have been affected by the trauma I was exposed to in my household when I was a baby and infant because I had no memory of it. The above research adds further evidence that such an assertion is misplaced.

Traumatic Amnesia Resulting From Childhood Trauma

Why Trauma Survivors May Find It Hard To Learn From Past Behaviour.

Childhood Trauma And Memory – Why Some Remember, Others Forget

Effects Of Repressed Anger Towards Parents

Childhood Trauma : Reactions to Trauma According to Age

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

About David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

David Hosier MSc holds two degrees (BSc Hons and MSc) and a post-graduate diploma in education (all three qualifications are in psychology). He also holds UK QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). He has worked as a teacher, lecturer and researcher. His own experiences of severe childhood trauma and its emotional fallout motivated him to set up this website,, for which he exclusively writes articles. He has published several books including The Link Between Childhood Trauma And Borderline Personality Disorder, The Link Between Childhood Trauma ANd Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and  How Childhood Trauma Can Damage The Developing Brain (And How These Effects Can Be Reversed). He was educated at the University of London, Goldsmith’s College where he developed his interest in childhood experiences leading to psychopathology and wrote his thesis on the effects of childhood depression on academic performance. This site has been created for educational purposes only.

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