Early childhood trauma favors neurological disorders

Early childhood trauma favors neurological disorders

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How do brains change due to early trauma?

Early childhood trauma can lead to the development of a functional neurological disorder. When examining the brains of affected people, researchers gained a better understanding of what is happening in the brains of people with functional neurological disorder and various other traumatic brain disorders.

The current research at Massachusetts General Hospital investigated what is going on in the brains of people with functional neurological disorder and various other traumatic brain disorders. The results of the study were published in the English language journal "Molecular Psychiatry".

Brain structures appear normal

In people with functional neurological disorder (FNS), the brain generally appears structurally normal on clinical MRI scans. Still, it doesn't work properly. As a result, people may experience symptoms such as weakness in the limbs, tremors, gait abnormalities and non-epileptic seizures.

Results could lead to improved treatment

The results of the current study could provide a better understanding of what is happening in the brain of some patients with FNS as well as in patients with various other trauma-related brain disorders. This could potentially improve the treatment of these diseases in the future.

What kind of people have been examined?

The study involved 30 adults with FNS and 21 people whose clinical depression diagnoses served as controls. Some of these participants from both groups had experienced early childhood abuse, which was determined by a questionnaire.

Physical abuse of children can have serious consequences

In people with functional neurological disorder, differences in the severity of physical abuse in childhood correlated with differences in the connections between certain brain regions, for example between the limbic regions, which control emotions, arousal and survival instincts, among other things. The primary motor cortex, which is involved in voluntary movements, was also affected.

Increased interaction noted

Motor and limbic circuits were more closely linked in those with FNS who reported increased severity of childhood physical abuse. This finding could lead to potentially important insights into the mechanisms in the brain that play a role in enhanced interactions between motor control loops and emotion processing loops.

Additional data sets were evaluated for the study

In additional evaluations, the researchers investigated how the expression of genes correlated with areas of the brain that showed known plastic effects. This has been associated with the degree of early physical abuse in patients with FNS.

Certain genes can increase the risk of brain disorders

Some genes appear to increase the risk of developing brain disorders after early abuse. The researchers found that the areas of the brain that show a pronounced functional reorganization in patients with FNS are the same areas of the brain that express the genes that are involved in neuroplasticity and the development of the nervous system.

Many different factors influence the development of FNS

The current study has potential implications for understanding the relationship between the brain and trauma - not only in patients with FNS, but also on the entire spectrum of traumatic brain disorders. Although childhood abuse can be a risk factor for the development of FNS in some people, there are many social, environmental, and biological factors that are likely to affect the development of FNS later in life.

More research is needed

More research is needed to understand how the brain mechanisms that underlie FNS in people with no known childhood abuse are different from those who have a high burden of childhood adversity. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Ibai Diez, Anna G. Larson, Vihang Nakhate, Erin C. Dunn, Gregory L. Fricchione et al .: Early-life trauma endophenotypes and brain circuit – gene expression relationships in functional neurological (conversion) disorder, in Molecular Psychiatry (published 12.02 .2020), Molecular Psychiatry

Video: Genetic Testing for Hereditary Neurological Disorders. Webinar. Ambry Genetics (August 2022).