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Fence & Deck's 'Deck The Halls

Be sure to join The Blue Ribbon Project at Fence & Deck's 'Deck The Halls on December 7th from 4:00pm to 7:00pm. There is a ton of fun for the entire family.  From train rides to photos with Santa to roasting S'Mores around the fire...there will be plenty of activities to enjoy. More Info...

Child Abuse Marks the Brain

Abuse or maltreatment during childhood may shrink vital parts of the brain. Research from Harvard University has found that parts of the hippocampus had reduced in size, possibly explaining why childhood trauma results in psychiatric disorders, such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, and drug addiction. It’s this link that may allow researchers to find more effective ways of treating childhood abuse survivors. The research offers an explanation as to why childhood abuse sufferers are more prone to psychosis and drug abuse.

ptsd3The Adult Brain

The study saw researchers give brain MRIs to 193 participants, aged 18 to 25. By this stage, the participants had been through several rounds of testing to qualify for the study. Once the MRIs had been completed, the researchers analyzed the hippocampus’ size of areas, comparing the results with their history. Based on well-established questionnaires, the researchers determined that those who had been maltreated, neglected, or abused had a 6% reduction in the volume of particular areas of the hippocampus.

Additionally, there were size reductions in the subiculum area of the brain. The subiculum relays signals from the hippocampus across other areas of the brain, which includes the dopamine system. The dopamine system is the brain’s reward center. A reduction in the brain’s subiculum area is associated with schizophrenia and drug abuse.

Animal experiments have shown that high levels of exposure to cortisol, the stress hormone, can shrink the hippocampus. Particularly in two key developmental periods, between the ages of 3 and 5, as well as the ages of 11 and 13. Cortisol levels prevent neuron growth in the hippocampus, leading to shrinkage in the adult human brain.

While small amounts of cortisol, and bouts of short-term stress, are harmless- too much can weaken the immune system, damage the heart, and wreak havoc on mental health.
Childhood abuse sufferers are under severe stress, both during the abuse itself, as well as in the years following as the survivor attempts to live with the fallout. People who have a history of child abuse are also more likely to suffer with chronic pain, which is another issue related to stress. Emotional support is vital in making victims feel safe and reduce stress levels.

Diseases Based in the Brain

Decreases in hippocampus volume have been linked with schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric disorders. High levels of stress during vital brain development periods, due to childhood maltreatment and abuse, can cause the decrease in hippocampus volume.
The hippocampus region of the brain is home to a lot of receptors for cortisol. Cortisol interacts with the receptors in these neurons to affect their development. The neurons will respond by shrinking, or by failing to make new neurons.


Its these brain changes that can result in mental illness. This explains why childhood abuse has been highly associated with drug addiction and depression. High cortisol levels are damaging, leaving the dopamine system discombobulated and dysregulated. When the dopamine system is dysregulated the likelihood of a psychological illness, or drug abuse, is much higher.

Members & Volunteers

Upcoming Events

December 7th 4:00pm to 7:00pm: ‎Fence & 'Deck The Halls' Holiday Clothing Drive in Millersville: Join us at Fence & Deck Connection in Millersville as they support The Blue Ribbon Project. More Info...


December 8th 2:00pm to 4:00pm: Volunteer Day: A day when volunteers come in to help sort donations and build Backpacks of Love. More Info...


December 14th 10:00am to 2:00pm: Speak Up...Speak Out Child Abuse Awareness Training: Join us for this free Child Abuse Awareness Training Program for Professionals More Info...


February 8th 10:00am to 2:00pm: Speak Up...Speak Out Child Abuse Awareness Training: Join us for this free Child Abuse Awareness Training Program for Professionals More Info...