Lecture – Trauma and the Brain – From Molecules to Mobile Phones

Available with English captions.

Presented by Laura Germine, PhD, and Stephanie A. Maddox, PhD, McLean Hospital – Crossroads in Psychiatry lecture

Memories are central to our lives. They allow us to respond to new situations and demonstrate knowledge. They also protect us from future dangerous situations.

Unfortunately, memories resulting from traumatic experiences can impair one’s ability to appropriately distinguish safe and dangerous contexts.

In this presentation, Maddox and Germine explore research efforts aimed at increasing our understanding of the brain circuitry that leads to trauma-related memories. This work is important, Maddox states, because “rates of trauma are increasing at epidemic proportions.” She cites a 2017 study that examined mental health data from 24 countries. This research revealed that some 70% of participants had experienced a significant trauma.

Watch now to learn more about:

  • Brain circuitry involved in the formation of trauma-related memories
  • How basic neuroscience models can be used to study disorders involving traumatic memory
  • The ways personal digital devices can improve our ability to measure differences in memory and cognition

In this talk, Germine and Maddox discuss how the brain processes information related to threat and trauma. They explain how both basic neuroscience and big data approaches are used to further our understanding of the complex ways the brain responds to trauma.

Maddox states that “any experience that we have in our lives has the ability to leave a lasting physical imprint in our nervous system.” She also reports on neuroscience research into trauma and basic brain circuitry. To show how trauma impacts the brain, she presents findings from several studies involving human and animal models.

This research has revealed much about trauma and brain circuitry that can help clinicians and researchers. However, Maddox cautions that many factors, including environment, can play important roles in determining how the brain responds and changes to traumatic situations.

Germine builds on Maddox’s talk to explain how personal digital devices, such as smartphone and tablets, can aid in our understanding of cognition. She details recent advancements in digital and molecular biology tools. She also explains how these tools can improve data collection regarding trauma and brain function.

Although there are challenges concerning the use of digital tools, Germine asserts that they will be critical in propelling the field forward in our understating of memory processes, as well as in revealing potential novel therapies.