How the Brain’s Chemical Makeup Can Be Changed By Adverse Childhood Experiences

Posted By: Tony Baratta | June 17th, 2020

I’m Tony Baratta. Today, I want to speak about adverse childhood experiences and how those experiences actually change the chemical makeup of one’s brain.


Traumatic events during childhood

As you may know, I have represented numerous children who have been sexually abused or have suffered other very serious traumatic events in their childhood. And they were exposed to those events over and over again.

It’s my experience, and I’ve learned from the doctors that I’ve spoken to about this, that the best way to explain what these children have gone through is to explain how those adverse childhood experiences have actually changed their brain makeup.


Examples of adverse child experiences

Adverse child experiences can be things like being regularly punched or regularly insulted. Or maybe a child watched his mother regularly being beaten. It can also happen as a result of living in a household with a parent who is a drug abuser. In fact, any regular volatile experiences in a child’s upbringing can create these kinds of chemical changes.


Resulting chemical changes

In the classic fight or flight response, chemicals like adrenaline start pouring into the brain. This is a genetic response that’s supposed to help us avoid being eaten by bears. So if you’re in the forest and you encounter a bear, the fight or flight response allows us to escape the bear.

But if the bear is coming home from the bar every night, then our brains are constantly getting that stress. And that stress actually changes the brain, so that any time a child, now in their adulthood, is confronted with certain situations, they immediately perceive danger even when danger is not there.


Their brain has been rewired

Their brain has been chemically rewired to sense conflict and be argumentative. They may also flee the situation or react in a way that seems unnatural because they now perceive every contact as a threat.

So when I try to explain to juries how these chronic or adverse childhood events occur to a child, I point out how it actually affects the chemical makeup of their brain. My name is Tony Baratta, and I hope this has been helpful to you.


About the Author

Anthony J. Baratta (Tony) is a trial attorney. He has tried more than 50 cases to Juries in State and Federal Courts and has litigated thousands of personal injury and medical malpractice cases in his 30-year career. Tony is the founding partner of Baratta, Russell, & Baratta and an active board member of the Pennsylvania Brain Injury Association (BPIA). Tony is also on the board for the Philadelphia VIP and performs pro bono work for the Laurel House, a non-profit for victims of domestic abuse. In addition, Tony is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for trial attorneys, voted one of Philadelphia’s Super Lawyers for the past 14 years, and a 2018 recipient of the First Judicial District Pro Bono Award for the Civil Trial Division.

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