Depressed Teen

The repercussions of child abuse are often irreversible, but we do not know much about the intrinsic effect such adverse issues may have on our life. In a new study by professionals from the Yale School of Medicine, it came to light that young adults who were abused and ignored seemingly had less gray matter in certain regions of the brain, unlike those who were treated normally.

There were 2 parameters to gauge the impact of abuse on the brain. The first factor was whether the adolescents encountered abuse or neglect while the second factor examined if the abuse was something physical or psychological. The 42 adolescent participants of the study who faced some sort of abuse or neglect apparently possessed less gray matter, though they did not suffer from any psychological conditions.

“Here we have teenagers who may not have a diagnosable illness but still have physical evidence of maltreatment. This could help to explain their trouble with school performance or increase their vulnerability to depression and behavioral difficulties,” explained Hilary Blumberg, associate professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Diagnostic Radiology and in the Yale Child Study Center, who is senior author of the study.

This reduction in gray matter was seen in some regions of the prefrontal cortex irrespective of whether the subject had been physically hurt or emotionally ignored. However, abnormalities in other areas of the brain were based on the type of mistreatment meted out to the participants.

There was also variation seen among boys and girls in the sequences of gray matter reduction. As far as boys were concerned, the reduction was specifically observed in portions linked to impulsivity or substance abuse. For girls, this reduction appeared to be prominent in parts of the brain associated with depression.

The team concluded that the adolescent brain is very sensitive to change of events. It is therefore crucial to prevent abuse and aid those who have experienced it. The study is published in the journal, Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine.