Severe abuse from childhood may affect brain’s myelin sheaths

The victims of severe abuse in childhood are statistically more vulnerable at psychiatric conditions linked to stress. The subject of mental health in children may be associated with molecular and cellular changes in brain structure.
Researchers from McGill University from Canada discovered that severe abuse from childhood triggers a chain reaction that leads to degradation of brain structure and function of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), this area being associated with emotional self-adjustment. In May 2018 a neuropsychologist from China discovered that ACC plays a very important role in gratification brain mechanism and it is a mediator in the transformation of gratification in altruism.
In the last research of McGill University, researchers used a microscope for measuring the density of myelin sheaths from over the ACC neurons. By comparing the brains of the participants that had severe depression and suicidal thoughts (with or without childhood abuse) with the brains of the healthy participants, they noticed significant differences in the myelin sheaths from the ACC.
Also, the sheaths of myelin of the healthy participants who haven’t been abused in childhood were thicker in the ACC. The thickness of the myelin sheaths optimizes the ability of the white material to accomplish the communication between different areas of the brain.
These studies have been managed by Naguib Mechawar and Gustavo Turecki in McGill Group for Suicide Studies (MGSS). Their results suggest that genes expression is strongly affected at the level of oligodendrocytes class in ACC. This class of cells is responsible for myelin production. Their axons send electrical impulses, but the degradation of the myelin sheaths is associated with loss in the transmission efficacy.
These studies show us that severe abuse in childhood modifies ACC’s architecture by destroying the neurons’ myelin. This change of the ACC is the key for emotional adjustment and can lead to excessive vulnerability, therefore to depressions or even personality disorders.

Author: Violeta Gudana


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