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Possible Adverse Effects Of Maternal Stress On The Unborn Baby’s Brain Development.


A study carried out by Sarkar et al. at Imperial College, University of London and published in the scientific joutnal Clinical Endocrinology suggests that, if a mother is highly stressed during pregnancy, her consequent excessive production of stress hormones may adversely affect the brain development of her unborn child from about seventeen weeks after conception onwards.


The study involved 267 women and the researchers measured their levels of the stress hormone known as CORTISOL (which can have damaging effects over the long-term) by taking samples of their blood (levels of cortisol increase in the blood in accordance with increasing levels of stress and anxiety experienced by the individual).

The mothers also had samples of amniotic fluid (a protective fluid that surrounds the fetus and also facilitates the exchange of water, nutrients and biochemical products between the mother and the unborn child) taken.

It was found that mothers with high levels of cotisol in their blood also had higher than normal levels of the same hormone in their amniotic fluid (to which, as alluded to above, the unborn child is exposed).

Furthermore, it was found that the longer the mother had been pregnant, the stronger was the positive correlation between the levels of cortisol in her blood and the level of cortisol in the amniotic fluid.

This, in turn, suggests that the longer the mother has been pregnant (i.e. as the gestational age of the unborn child increases) the more he or she (i.e. the unborn baby) is likely to be adversely affected by excessive cortisol levels.

It should be noted, however, that further research is needed to clarify how high the mother’s cotisol levels need to be to present the unborn child with a significant risk of potential harm.


Such potential harm may include a lowering of the developing child’s potential I.Q. by about 10 points (Glover), an increased likelihood of developing attentional deficits and a greater susceptibility to experience anxiety in later life (although, again, further research is needed in order to investigate these possibilies more fully).


From the above findings, it is possible to conclude that high levels of maternal stress may start to adversely affect the unborn child’s development from as early as a gestational age of 17 weeks and that this danger increases as the unborn child’s gestational age increases. It is therefore very important that the mother-to-be is ptovided with good emotional support during pregnancy, including sensitive treatment by employees.

You may also be interested to read my related articles :

Enjoy a Positive Pregnancy | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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

Can Neurofeedback Achieve In A Week Same Results As Years Of Zen Meditation?



We have seen from many other articles that I have published on this site that those who have suffered significant and protracted childhood trauma are more likely than average to suffer mental health problems in later life, including anxiety (click here to read my previously published article : Childhood Trauma And Its Link To Adult Anxiety.

We have also seen that one method that many find useful to reduce feelings of anxiety is meditation (for example, see my previously published article : The Brain, Neuroscience And Meditation).



Above : Individual undergoing a neurofeedback / EEG biofeedback session using a computer program and brain sensors.

According to Buzsaki, Professor of Neuroscience at Rutgers University, Zen meditation needs to be undertaken for years until the person practising it is able to slow the frequency of the brain’s alpha waves and to spread the alpha oscillations more forward to the front of the brain ; slowing these brain waves have many beneficial effects including :

  • reducing fear
  • reducing ‘mind chatter’
  • increasing feelings of calm
  • reduce anxiety
  • reduce feelings of panic

However, Buzaki states that (as alluded to above) whilst it takes years of Zen meditation to optimally alter alpha wave brain activity, the same results can be obtained after a mere week’s training with neurofeedback.    


Neurofeedback is sometimes also referred to as EEG biofeedback and is a form of technology that helps the individual to learn how to beneficially alter his / her brain waves and it works by operant conditioning.

It is based on the idea that dysregulation of the brain iforms the basis of many emotional, cognitive and behavioral problems and, as such, this brain dysregulation needs to be corrected.

N.B. Neurofeedback should only be carried out under the supervision of an appropriately qualified and experienced person.

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




Physical Abuse Leading To Self-Hatred And Inability To Feel Empathy.


When a child is physically beaten by the very people who should be protecting him / her (i.e. his / her parent/s), it can cause him or her to develop feelings of great psychological conflict.

In an attempt to resolve this conflict, the child will frequently rationalize the abusive behavior of the parent by telling him / herself that s/he deserve such abusive treatment because s/he is ‘bad.’

It has been theorized (e.g. by psychologists such as Alice Miller) that this rationalization protects the child from the reality of the situation (i.e. that the parent is abusive) and, therefore, operates as an unconscious defense mechanism that serves to shield him or her from a potentially devastating psychological truth (i.e. that those who should protect him / her are capable of doing the reverse – purposely inflicting harm and pain on him / her and representing a danger him / her).


One common such rationalization is, according to Miller, is that the parent is physically harming the child ‘for the child’s own good.‘ Indeed, one of Miller’s most seminal books is ironically entitled : ‘For Your Own Good.’

Furthermore, the child frequently also employs another subconscious defense mechanism to protect him / herself from knowledge that the parent is abusive, namely that of DENIAL. In other words, not only may such children blame themselves for the abuse inflicted upon them, but also DENY that it hurts them, is painful and is doing them any harm.

The result of such psychological defenses are that :

  1. The child comes to view him/herself as an intrinsically bad person who is neither acceptable nor of any value.
  2. S/he loses the ability to feel self-compassion and self-empathy which, in turn, reduces his/her ability to feel empathy for others.

Research also shows that there are many other negative outcomes associated with corporal punishment, too. For example, a study carried out by Straus (at the University of New Hampshire) showed that such punishment (of both boys and girls and irrespective of socioeconomic group) tends to increase the liklihood that children will develop into adults who are :

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

How Parents’ Anxiety Levels And Behaviors Affect Their Child’s Anxiety

A study involving 98 pairs of mothers and infants (the infants were aged from 12 months to 14 months) was carried out to investigate how the level of the mother’s stress affected the level of the infant’s stress (as measured by the reactivity of their respective nervous systems).


The mothers were separated from their infants before being assigned to one of two groups. The two groups were as follows :

GROUP ONE : The RELAXATION group in which the mothers were helped to relax to increase parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) reactivity (the PNS helps us to be calm and relaxed by, for example, reducing heart rate and blood pressure).

GROUP TWO : The SRESS group in which mothers were required to undertake a stress-inducing task to increase sympathetic nervous system (SNS) reactivity which induces in us the ‘fight or flight’ state by, for example, increasing heart rate and breathing rate.

Afterwards, the mothers from both of the above groups were reunited with their infants in one of two ways :

!) Half the mothers from each group had their infant returned to their laps. The researchers referred to this as the ‘TOUCH CONDITION.’


2) Half the mothers from each group had their infant returned to a high chair next to them. The researchers referred to this as the ‘NON-TOUCH CONDITION.’

Following this, acitivity in the infants’ SNS and PNS was measured and compared to their baseline levels.

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Infants returned to the STRESSED mothers showed significantly increased SNS activity compared to infants returned to RELAXED mothers and this effect was greater in the infants returned to their mother’s laps (THE ‘TOUCH’ CONDITION) than in the infants returned to a high chair next to their mother (THE ‘NON-TOUCH’ CONDITION).


Infants returned to the RELAXED mothers showed significantly increased ANS activity compared to infants returned to STRESSED mothers and this effect was greater in the infants returned to their mother’s laps (THE ‘TOUCH’ CONDITION) than in the infants returned to a high chair next to their mother (THE ‘NON-TOUCH’ CONDITION).


The researchers inferred from these findings that :

  • feelings of stress can be transmitted from mothers to their infants, particularly through touch.
  • feelings of calm and relaxation can be transmitted from mothers to their infants, particularly through touch.

These findings confirm what most mothers know instinctively.

How Parents Can Help Their Children Manage Their Anxiety ;

Research carried out at the University Of Lisbon (2017) conducted an interview based study that involved parents being asked to describe what strategies they employ to help their children reduce their feelings of anxiety.

The information collected from the study allowed the researchers to identify seven strategies that were UNHELPFUL (and that could potentially intensify the child’s feelings of anxiety) and, also, three strategies that were HELPFUL (and that were likely to ameliorate the child’s feelings of anxiety). I outline all ten of these strategies (the seven ‘unhelpful’ and the three ‘helpful’) below :


  • Reinforcing depenedence or avoidance.
  • Over-involvement (including being over-protective and being excessively controlling).
  • Negativity (e.g. blaming, criticizing or punishing the child)
  • Helplessness
  • Anxiety
  • Unrealistic Reassurance
  • Passivity (e.g. unresponsiveness to the child’s anxiety)


  • Helping the child to problem solve (e.g. developing plans to deal with the cause of anxiety or to cope with the anxiety
  • Encouraging the child to be brave
  • Providing the child with emotional support

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

Is Your Predominant Response To Trauma Flooding Or Dissociation?


We have seen from previous articles that I have published on this site that individuals can physiologically respond to severe and chronic trauma in two opposing manners : by becoming FLOODED (hyper-aroused and over-reactive) or by becoming DISSOCIATED (hypo-aroused and under-reactive).

Which Is More Common : Flooding Or Dissociation?

A study carried out by Lanius et al. involved trauma survivors having their brain activity measured (using fMRI machines) whilst being read a script that described the trauma that they had experienced.

As alluded to in the opening paragraph, it was found that their brains reacted in 2 ways which I briefly describe below :


Individuals who became flooded and re-experienced their traumatic experience showed reduced activity in the parts of the brain (the rostral anterior cingulate and medial prefrontal cortex) that dampen down emotions like fear. Therefore, these brain regions’  ability to dampen down the individual’s feelings of fright and terror were impaired (thus allowing these unwelcome sensations to run amok and create a state of hyper-arousal, including flashbacks and intrusive memories).

Correspondingly, these individuals also showed increased activity in the amygdala (a region of the brain associated with feelings of fear) and the right anterior insula (a region of the brain associated with awareness of body states). These responses, too, led to elevated feelings of fright and terror as well as an intensified experiencing of the bodily sensations that accompany such feelings.



Individuals displaying the dissociative response showed the opposite brain reactions. In other words, the brain regions that dampen down feelings like fear became MORE active thus reducing feelings of fear. Whilst this might sound good, the problem is that when individuals respond in this dissociative fashion, their emotions are ‘turned down’ too much, leading to feelings of emotional numbness / emotional deadness.

Which Of These Two Responses Was The Most Common?

It was found that 70% of participants showed the FLOODING response and 30% showed the DISSOCIATIVE RESPONSE. However, further research needs to be conducted to determine what proportion of individuals predominantly react to trauma by displaying either the flooding or dissociative response and what proportion react to trauma by displaying both reponses (i.e. oscillating between the two). It is currently believed that most individuals respond in the latter manner (i.e. by oscillating between states of feeling flooded and states of feeling dissociated).

You may also be interested in reading my previously published article : Neurofeedback And Reducing Activity In The Brain’s Fear Circuitary.

Overcome Hypervigilance | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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

Why Rejection Is So Painful : An Evolutionary Explanation.

Due to the forces of evolution, our brains have developed, first and foremost, to keep us alive, irrespective of whether the emotions that drive us to do cause us pleasure or pain ; in this sense, the process of evolution is entirely indifferent as to whether or not we are happy ; indeed, his is why our brains have a negative bias : to help ensure our survival, our brains are wired to focus on threats, dangers and that which can harm us rather than on more positive things (which could seduce us into a state of dangerous complacency and vulnerability). The principle at play here is that it’s better to be in an unpleasant state of anxiety and fear, but alive, than it is to be in a state of peace and serenity whilst being gobbled up by a lion.

One of the main operations of our brains to evolve in order to help ensure our survival is the ability to detect threat. This is because, in the case of our ancestors, such threats were frequently life endangering (such as being attacked by a wild animal, as alluded to above).

Today, however, the threats we tend to encounter are very rarely life threatening. However, because evolution is such a glacially slow process, our brains have not had time to readjust to this fact and, therefore, will still respond to certain threats that would have been life threatening to our ancestors as if they are STILL life endangering today.

herd mentaliy

One threat that was life endangering to our ancestors was social rejection ; this is because living in groups made it more likely we would survive and, of course, it logically follows from this, if we were rejected from the group (and even more so if they were rejected by our parents when young) we would be at greater risk of death.

So, the crucial point is that our modern day brains react to rejection by significant others today as our ancestors’ brains did in the distant past i.e. as if the rejection were life-threatening. That is why, say, rejection by a parent or partner can drive us to despair or even suicide (the latter response is particularly ironic as, in such a case, our death would be brought about, ultimately, by an overly assiduous survival instinct).

In objective terms, then, we over-react to rejection in the modern day due to a trick our mind is playing on us that has its origin in millions of years of evolutionary history. It must be recognized, nevertheless, that for many of us, this is cold comfort indeed.

Overcome Fear Of Rejection | Self Hypnosis Downloads

You may also like to read :

The Long-Term Effects Of Parental Rejection

Childhood Trauma : Coping With Rejection

Childhood Rejection Leading To Possessive Behavior In Adult Relationships

BPD Sufferers May Avoid Mentalization Due To Parental Rejection

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

Childhood Trauma And Workplace Performance

The negative effects of childhood trauma can also seriously impair our work performance as adults. Some obvious examples include:

  • low academic achievement.
  • alcoholism.
  • drug addiction.
  • anger management problems (which may lead to conflict in relations with colleagues and the boss).
  • relationship problems (including marital and family difficulties), depression, anxiety, headaches, somatic symptoms (such as back pain and irritable bowel syndrome).

Indeed, research published in the Permanent Journal reported that, in the United States, back pain alone is thought to cost businesses just short of 30 billion dollars per year and depression is thought to cost it about 44 billion dollars per year.

However, it is not possible, from these figures, to ascertain what percentage of the above referred to cases back pain and the above referred to cases of depression is directly linked to the adverse effects of childhood trauma.

From these findings, however, it is reasonable to conclude that educating employees about how adverse childhood trauma may have negatively impacted upon their lives is very important as it may allow them to seek more relevant, trauma-informed, treatments and therapies for their difficulties, thus increasing their chances of successful recovery. And, in order for such education to be implemented effectively, business owners, too, need to learn about the possible harmful effects of unresolved childhood trauma on their employees and, therefore, on their business.


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