Monday, June 30, 2014

How we develop, brain-wise

I was introduced to Dr. Bruce Perry's work while I was a student in Child Studies, I bought his book "The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog" accidently--it was mistakenly put down as the text for one of my classes.

What a fortunate mistake! I was enthralled with it. As it was, one of my profs. had done some work with him! She introduced us to Trauma Academy ( and through that I learned (or began to learn) about neuro-sequential brain development. Basically, our brain develops from the brainstem up, not everything at once. The cortex finishes developing at about age 25. There are a lot of other things happening and can still happen after that age, but that is the raw basic of the concept.

My practicum (Spring 2008) with that degree was as a research assistant for a maternal-child study. We were collecting data from moms about their mental health & their child's development at 6mos. 12mos. and 18mos. One of the screens we used was the Brigance Parent-Child Interaction Scale (BPCIS). We were presenting (really my boss/the principle investigator and her friend were) this at a conference in Phoenix and I create a slide for it that I talked about. I took Trauma Academy's diagram and added two questions from the BPCIS and connected them with the areas of the brain they stimulated. My boss said that it was brilliant and that I didn't know how brilliant it was (she was and still is right about that-I see it as a logical connection).

Fast Forward to this semester (Winter 2014) and I'm working on my Social Work degree. My final practicum is at a school for children who have experienced a few (or more, yes, plural) forms of traumas. I get the bright idea for my learning agreement to take that diagram I created and add trauma to it! Took me 2 mos. to figure out how to do it and what it would look like and to find the information to put on it. And I believed that the information needed to be from scholarly sources to make it solid. So, here it is, all but one piece can be backed up. The part about the effects of trauma on heart rate, blood pressure and respiration is only me being logical. If alcohol and/or drugs insult/exposure can cause such damage on the brainstem that the baby dies prior to or shortly after birth, what if the amount of exposure wasn't great enough to cause that much damage?  Could it cause enough damage that there are only minor problems that may not hinder the person's life until detected or it is considered "just one of those things"? I couldn't find any information that explores that line of thinking. Finding anything much beyond what the brainstem does and develops is scarce. Or I just didn't look in the right places. I'd love to know if this has been looked into.

The light blue boxes are the two Brigance questions, the far left is the approximate ages those parts of the brain develop, on the right centre is some of the things that those parts control and the far right is some of the consequences of trauma. That trauma could be witnessed, experienced or occurred prenatally (drugs, alcohol, physical, emotional assault...).

I suppose I should list all my references...I also should have been more diligent in keeping track of them! The most important one is that the diagram was created by Trauma Academy. Sadly, I cannot find the original anymore to accurately accredit it. It is/was titled "Sequential Neurodevelopment and Play". I have contacted them but have not heard back, so that may mean they are still searching for the source or they are really busy.

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