Wired has a fascinating and haunting article on what happens to children’s brains when they are raised in violent households. Their brains respond more like soldiers’ brains who have been exposed to warfare.
In a study done by psychologist Eamon McCrory of University College London, 43 children who had been abused had their brains imaged by fMRI. Their results were compared to 23 non-abused children who otherwise were comparable demographically. The children were shown images of sad and angry faces and their brain reactions were observed.
The children who were abused had a distinctive pattern of reaction to angry faces in the parts of the brain that process threat and pain.
The hope is that these findings will help develop more effective treatments for the depression, aggression, and anxiety that plague those who have been abused.
You may also want to read the Wired article on how poverty affects the brains of children.