Shannon Brownlee writes in a U.S. News and World Report article, dated Nov. 3, 1996:
Once viewed as genetically programmed, the brain is now known to be plastic, an organ molded by both genes and experience throughout life. A single traumatic experience can alter an adult’s brain: A horrifying battle, for instance, may induce the flashbacks, depression and hair-trigger response of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And researchers are finding that abuse and neglect early in life can have even more devastating consequences, tangling both the chemistry and the architecture of children’s brains and leaving them at risk for drug abuse, teen pregnancy and psychiatric problems later in life.
Yet the brain’s plasticity also holds out the chance that positive experiences — psychotherapy, mentoring, loving relationships — might ameliorate some of the damage. Much remains unknown. But if scientists can understand exactly how trauma harms the brain, they may also learn much about healing broken lives.