Presentation on theme: "Understanding the Neurobiology of Trauma Sunni D. Ward, MS Victim Assistance Coordinator, Elbert County Sheriff’s Office February 19,2013."— Presentation transcript:
Understanding the Neurobiology of Trauma Sunni D. Ward, MS Victim Assistance Coordinator, Elbert County Sheriff’s Office February 19,2013
Objectives Discuss victim behavior and examine research on neurobiology of trauma Discuss how neurobiology research findings can change practice and inform service providers
Trauma: What is it? Physical Trauma- serious bodily injury or wound; life threatening, potentially resulting in death Psychological Trauma- psychological or emotional damage A psychologically upsetting experience that produces a mental disorder or otherwise has lasting negative effects on a person’s thoughts, feelings and behavior
Trauma: What is it? Domestic Violence Homicide Mass Casualties Kidnapping Physical, Sexual, Emotional abuse School violence Severe Motor vehicle accidents Witnessing or hearing about any of the above
Trauma: What is it? Retrieved from
Trauma: What is it?
Trauma: What do we do? Establish a rapport/Empathy I am so sorry this happened to you This must be a very difficult time for you right now Identification What I hear you saying is….. I can see/hear you are angry Validation What you are feeling is normal This is NOT your fault Key Elements to Consider When Communicating with Victims
Neurobiology of Trauma: What is it? Psychological Trauma- A psychologically upsetting experience that produces a mental disorder or otherwise has lasting negative effects on a person’s thoughts, feelings and behavior
Neurobiology of Trauma: What is it? Over the last decade or so, there has been a tremendous amount of research on neuroscience and trauma : Psychological trauma is the unique individual experience of an event or enduring conditions, in which: The individual’s ability to integrate his/her emotional experience is overwhelmed; or The individual experiences (subjectively) a threat to life, body integrity, or sanity (Pearlman Saakvitne, 1995,p. 60) Our brains are pliable and have a plasticity to them that allows for structure and function changes in response to experience.
Neurobiology of Trauma: What is it? ~”The Body Keeps the Score” Bessel Van de Kolk
Structures of the Brain: The Limbic System
Reception Center- Receives info in through the senses- relays to Pre-Frontal Cortex and Amygdala Organization Center- Responsible for encoding information and storing information into memory Emotional Center Concerned with survival Thermostat- Concerned w/ homeostasis; releases neurohormones Executive Center- Responsible for decision-making, planning, reasoning
Concluding Thoughts Neuroscience research provides an important biological foundation for understanding the impact of our work Understanding the neurobiology of trauma gives us as direct service providers an opportunity to inform others in our profession about what might be going on with victims during an interview, or during victim notification, or at trial. Additionally, it will help us pinpoint the types of interventions that are most helpful to victims.