This week I am going to delve a little deeper into the effects of trauma on the developing brain and how this may affect our ability to develop healthy attachments.
The attachment bonds formed between an infant and their primary caretaker profoundly influences both the structure and function of their developing brain. Failed attachment, whether caused by caretaker abuse, neglect or emotional unavailability can negatively impact brain structure and function, causing developmental or relational trauma. Early-life trauma affects future self-esteem, social awareness, ability to learn and physical health. When the attachment bond is properly formed, neurological integration develops normally, and the relationship brings the expectation of safety, appreciation, joy and pleasure. If the attachment bond was unsuccessful and traumatic, neurological impairment and memories of a failed relationship become the basis for adult expectations.
The human brain is a complex organ comprised of over 100 billion neurons, all organized into networks that are interconnected into systems designed to sense, process, store, perceive and respond to information from the external senses and the internal environment.
Different systems in the brain mediate different functions:
Systems in the frontal cortex are involved in abstract thought.
Systems in the brainstem are responsible for regulating heart rate, blood pressure and arousal states.
Systems in the limbic areas are responsible for attachment, affect regulation and aspects of emotion; and
Systems in the cortex are responsible for abstract cognition and complex language.