Traumas Change Perception in the Long-Term

Posted on August 23, 2019

Individuals who were physically, emotionally or sexually abused during their childhood tend to shy away from strangers and physical contact, as they have a different social perception from others. Recent research has found the brain changes causing these adults to experience social stimuli differently compared to others.

Adults who have undergone traumatic experiences are also at a higher risk of developing mental disorders like depression or anxiety. In order to examine the biological underpinnings of these differences, researchers recruited 120 people who have experienced trauma in the past and are currently coping with illnesses.

The participants were interviewed about their experiences and underwent sensory perception tests. The experimenter administers touches on the subject by stroking their shins either quickly or slowly. Participants were then asked how soothing they felt the touches were. Their brain activity was also monitored during the experiment.

Results reveal that the brain regions, somatosensory cortex and posterior insular cortex, reacted more strongly to quick strokes when the adults had more prominent traumatic experiences in the past. Additionally, these adults showed lesser activation in the hippocampus in reaction to slower touches. This indicates that such participants do not find the physical contact rewarding or pleasant.

Subjects were also asked to walk up to a stranger and stop when they feel that they are at a comfortable distance away from the stranger. Traumatized adults tend to stop at a distance that is significantly larger compared to adults who did not experience any trauma when they were children.

The study shows that people who were traumatized during their childhood perceive social situations differently. This could help develop new therapies that can help adults regain normal perception with regards to social settings.

Category(s):Adult psychological development, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) / Trauma / Complex PTSD

Source material from Science Daily

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