Sexual and Emotional Abuse Scar the Brain in Specific Ways

In both emotional and sexual abuse, a decrease in connectivity of regions that are overwhelmed by maltreatment may be interpreted as a self-protective response. But it can ultimately prove harmful because it interferes with subsequent healthy sensation and experience.

The changes seen were not small: Pruessner says if a region typically was 5 mm. thick on average, in abuse survivors it was just 3 mm. to 4 mm. “The effect size was quite significant,” he adds.

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