Three Areas of the Brain are Effected by Trauma. Their Functions are Listed in Below. Hover Over Each Section and See What Trauma Does.
Sympathetic Nervous System
Emotional/Threat Related Memory
Role in Fear and Anxiety
Hypersensitivity to Surroundings
Must engage in "Comfort Zone" only
New People/Places/Things =Scary
Grows larger with chronic trauma.
Trauma Shrinks and Damages
Difficulty Forming Memories
Memory of Trauma is Dominant
May Replayed When Triggered
Causes Panic and or Anxiety
Initiates Conscious Voluntary Behavior
Determines Meaning or Emotional Significance of the Event
Makes Decisions About the Best Response to a Situation
Inhibits/Corrects Dysfunctional Reactions
Difficulty Regulating Emotions
Frequent Feelings of Panic and Anxiety
Dysfunctional Reactions to Things that are NOT Harmful
The Nervous System
Our nervous system is made up of our brain, spinal cord, and nerves which travel throughout the body. This system receives information from all around us, through our sensory system, and from inside our body, and that causes a response. These responses can be voluntary, or involuntary through the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The nervous system also controls everything the body does from breathing, to walking, to thinking and feeling.
Our nervous system signals us and evaluates situations for safety and security or threat and danger. When our body perceives a situation of threat or danger, the ANS will cause the body to respond in the following ways:
Fight -Aggression, shouting, hitting, biting, kicking, swearing-anything to fight off the danger.
Flight- Elopement, fleeing, hiding, avoiding, anything to get away from danger.
Freeze- Shutdown, dissociate, block out, disconnect, anything to stop the danger from hurting us.
Fawn- Disregard for what we need in order to please the other person to keep us safe.
Usually, a person's first response to threat or danger is fight or flight and if that doesn't work freeze or fawn may be used, however when threat is chronic the nervous system learns to freeze first. That is why we must institute trauma-informed practices for autistic individuals, because what may be viewed as compliance actually is the student in the freeze or fawn state. Once the nervous system is chronically triggered into these states, it will become more sensitive to trauma, and thus more easily triggered by situations that were formerly benign to the student, which may look like heightened sensory overload or in cases of dissociation ignoring sensory input altogether.
Neuroplasticity Epigenetics and Trauma
•The brain's structure and function can be positively or negatively influenced or changed.
• Detrimental changes caused by substance use, disease, or trauma (including brain injury or traumatic experiences that result in PTSD).
• Experiencing trauma might alter your genetic makeup .
•Epigenetics* could also influence what someone is afraid of, what someone is sensitive to, and how their body functions and develops.
*Epigenetics- the science of how genes can be switched on or off by such as environment and behavior.