looking for ways to prevent and reverse the harm. Rat pups from a
genetically anx¬ious strain respond much better to stress as adults if
they are adopted by unusually attentive foster mothers. In a strain of
rats sensitive to alcohol, the risk of addiction is increased by early
separation from their mothers. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibi¬tors
(Prozac and others) may help, says the Harvard Mental Health Letter;
other promising drugs include mifepristone (RU-486) and propranolol
(Inderal). For post¬-traumatic stress disorder, psychological treatment
can retrain the brain's response to traumatic memories.
of treatment may depend on the nature of the childhood experience.
Mistreatment does not cause the same brain changes in everyone.
Individual genetic characteristics are important. The kind of
stress—parental loss, neglect, or abuse—may also make a difference.
more about the biological consequences of child mistreatment through
brain imaging and molecular genetic studies will help scientists define
the causes and nature of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress
symptoms. "Just as important," says Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief
of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, "it may improve our understanding
of how resilient children maintain hope, control anxiety, and achieve
normal development despite abuse and neglect."
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