Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

Brain Development Harmed in Mistreated Kids

Study May Help Explain Why Child Abuse Often Leads to Mental Problems Like Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress

Why Early-Life Stress Sometimes Leads to Mental Illness continued...

Shrinkage in this brain region has been shown in people who have mental illnesses like schizophrenia and depression.

Researchers found that three key regions of the hippocampus were nearly 6% to 7% smaller in people who were significantly mistreated as kids compared to those who were not.

The brain findings were there, whether or not a person was showing signs of a mental illness like depression or PTSD.

Based on previous research, “It seems like there’s this sensitive period between 3 to 5 years of age when the hippocampus may be very sensitive,” Teicher says.

“The consequences may not be [apparent] initially; they may be silent for many years before they unfold,” he says.

But he says people who had rough childhoods should also know that although early life experiences may be important for brain function, other studies have shown that some of the brain changes can be undone.

“Things like vigorous exercise will change it. Mental stimulation will influence it,” Teicher says. “Changes in the hippocampus are plastic and can be modified.”

1|2

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
 
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.
 

worried kid
fitArticle
boy on father's shoulder
Article
 
Child with red rash on cheeks
Slideshow
girl thinking
Article
 

babyapp
New
Child with adhd
Slideshow
 
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
Syringes and graph illustration
Tool