By Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.
Ronnie A. Pollard, M.D.
Toi L. Blakley, M.D.
William L. Baker, MS
Childhood trauma has profound impact on the emotional, behavioral, cognitive, social and physical functioning of children. Developmental experiences determine the organizational and functional status of the mature brain. The impact of traumatic experiences on the development and function of the brain are discussed in context of basic principles of neurodevelopment. There are various adaptive mental and physical responses to trauma, including physiological hyperarousal and dissociation. Because the developing brain organizes and internalizes new information in a use-dependent fashion, the more a child is in a state of hyperarousal or dissociation, the more likely they are to have neuropsychiatric symptoms following trauma. The acute adaptive states, when they persist, can become maladaptive traits. The clinical implications of this new neurodevelopmental conceptualization of childhood trauma are discussed.
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