Time, trauma, and the brain

Noon-conference presented by Stephanie Lloyd
Friday, 15 February 2019 - 11:30 am to 1:00 pm
Room number: 
FSS 14001
Contact information
Contact person: 
Maude Levesque
Registration required: 
Cost to attend: 
Free of charge
Event language: 
Event sponsors: 
The School of Social Work
Global statistics report that 25% of adults recount experiences of childhood physical abuse, and further, that 20% of women and 8% of men recount histories of childhood sexual abuse. While these experiences have long been associated with a variety of long-term mental and physical health problems, new narratives of the effects of child abuse are emerging in environmental epigenetics research. These narratives will be the focus of my presentation. Specifically, I will discuss ongoing epigenetics research that advances two claims. The first claim is that child abuse induces highly specific epigenetic changes in a person’s brain that are associated with a specific set of psychopathological traits whose most extreme end point is suicide. Second, in contrast to gene-environment interaction models, for example, in which a person had to have a predisposing genetic risk factor to respond negatively to a certain environment, in environmental epigenetics models, anyone who experiences child abuse is at risk of suicide by virtue of an acquired epigenetic profile. Given the “wrong” environment, anyone is at risk. These models have consequences for (1) the presumed nature of trauma, time, and psychopathology – with time seen as biologically embedded and bioactive and past experiences of stress able to reenact that same stress in the present – and (2) the scope of “at risk populations”, with profound implications for core assumptions about human nature and subjectivity.