Bruce D Perry, MD, PhD was the workshop speaker/presenter for the Building Better Lives: “Using neuroscience to achieve positive outcomes for children of all ages and stages of development” held September 24th and 25th by The Ohio State University Department of Human Ecology and The College of Education and Franklin County Family and Children First Council and P12 Initiative and The Ohio Children’s Trust Fund. Dr. Perry is Senior Fellow of the Child Trauma Academy and adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago. His latest book is titled, Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered.
Perry’s work substantiates how important abuse and neglect prevention is. Poverty, maltreatment or trauma all impact the developing brain. He explored NMT (neuro sequential model of therapeutics) core principles with the audience- largely composed of therapists, caseworkers and educators. This begins with the organization and function of the brain, how it processes experience and stimuli from the brainstem up to the Neocortex. Considering there are one hundred billion nerve cells in constant activity, the brain is remarkable.
Some of his points were ironic observations. For instance ‘We make the kid sit still to learn their ABCs when they’re better suited to play and learning through social interaction.’ Because of how the brain works, in the case of a stroke, you start rebuilding from the bottom up, physiotherapy before speech therapy. ‘We know that touch builds the cortex. Today, our screen time is up; touch down. We have 1/25th the interactions of today’s child versus hunter-gatherers,’ he said.
Perry explained that the learning window is state dependent; in other words, we need a little novelty. In order to learn something, a little stress can be a good thing. We know that physical exercise is good for the brain; that’s evidence based. Synaptogenesis is activity dependent. Powerful cognitive links can form with rhythmic activity: poetry, music, drumming, chant, military chant in repetition.
With maltreatment, stress or trauma there are changes in perception, cognition, behavior, brain and body systems which vary from heightened awareness to dissociation. Different parts of the brain respond differently on a continuum of calm up to fear and terror. And, there are different responses by different areas of the brain over a time lapse. If any key component of experience necessary for development is absent, the brain system is affected- as in neglect. Safe, repetitive, relevant experiences can influence positive development. Perry presented brain maps and scans of children with different diagnoses to illustrate the actual impact of neglect and abuse on the brain.
All of Perry’s handouts are copyrighted, so only notes and quotes are presented here as a cursory overview with links to more research on this important topic. For more information visit http://www.ChildTrauma.org or http://www.ChildTraumaAcademy.com for his extensive and impressive biography. He is the author of over 500 journal articles, book chapters, books, and articles. One book,The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog with Maia Szalavitz is a highly readable book on trauma and healing. Here’s a link to a video of NPR’s All Sides with Ann Fisher, podcast of her interview with Dr. Bruce Perry, which runs about 53 minutes. http://wosu.org/2012/allsides/trauma-and-the-developing-brain/
You can also search for him on YouTube where there are several additional programs listed to the ones below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vak-iDwZJY8 Houston PBS- Living Smart
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYyEEMlMMb0 Trauma, The Brain and Relationships- Post Institute
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4zP50tEad0 Exposure to Violence and Developing Brain