When I wrote a paper to become a specialist in clinical psychology, I focused on EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and the brain. When I woke up today I was inspired to learn even more, and maybe try to do more research the coming years. To summarize my paper, I tested a woman with neuropsychological test before and after treatment with EMDR to see if there were any changes in the test results. The result showed that her memory scores became better after EMDR. To educate myself further, I started to read an article today about trauma and the brain, where EMDR was one of the treatment methods mentioned. I want to share the most interesting part of the article, here.
Decades ago, Harry Harlow compared monkeys raised with their mothers to monkeys raised with wire or terrycloth “surrogate mothers.” Monkeys raised with the surrogates became socially deviant and highly aggressive adults. Building on this work, other scientists discovered that these consequences were less severe if the surrogate mother swung from side to side, a type of movement that may be conveyed to the cerebellum, particularly the part called the cerebellar vermis, located at the back of the brain, just above the brain stem. Like the hippocampus, this part of the brain develops gradually and continues to create new neurons after birth. It also has an extraordinarily high density of receptors for stress hormone, so exposure to such hormones can markedly affect its development. Something as seemingly inconsequential as five minutes of human handling during a rat’s infancy produced lifelong beneficial changes. New research suggests that abnormalities in the cerebellar vermis may be involved in psychiatric disorders including depression, manic-depressive illness, schizophrenia, autism, and attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder. We have gone from thinking of the entire cerebellum as involved only in motor coordination to believing that it plays an important role in regulating attention and emotion. The cerebellar vermis, in particular, seems to be involved in the control of epilepsy or limbic activation. Couldn’t maltreating children produce abnormalities in the cerebellar vermis that contribute to later psychiatric symptoms? Testing this hypothesis, we found that the vermis seems to become activated to control— and quell—electrical irritability in the limbic system. It appears less able to do this in people who have been abused. If, indeed, the vermis is important not only for postural, attentional, and emotional balance, but in compensating for and regulating emotional instability, this latter capacity may be impaired by early trauma. By contrast, stimulation of the vermis through exercise, rocking, and movement may exert additional calming effects, helping to develop the vermis.
A powerful new tool for treating PTSD is eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), which seems to quell flashbacks and intrusive memories. A moving visual stimulus is used to produce side-to-side eye movements while a clinician guides the patient through recalling highly disturbing memories. For reasons we do not yet fully understand, patients seem able to tolerate recall during these eye movements and can more effectively integrate and process their disturbing memories. We suspect that this technique works by fostering hemispheric (Reprint from www.dana.org a non-profit dedicated to brain research) integration and activating the cerebellar vermis (which also coordinates eye movements), which in turn soothes the patient’s intense limbic response to the memories.
You find the rest of the article by following this link:
You stand there. From one moment to the next, an ordinarily day is turned into a nightmare. The earth starts shaking. Objects are falling down, shattering when they hit the floor. You freeze, trying to not move. Your heart thumps, terrified. Will you survive this earthquake ?
I have been in my new job as a clinical psychologist for one month now, so it’s time for a update. I still can’t believe how fast the time has gone, it feels like the day is over before it even began. This is good, since it means that I am engaged. There is seldom a dull moment, and at the end of the day I look back and realize I have learnt something new. Already I have touching moments that I will carry with me until I take my last breath.
I have met many interesting people with a plethora of problems. Some with depressions, one with panic attacks, several with traumatized childhoods and also people with anger issues, AD/HD and personality disorders. Since I still see new patients, I haven’t had many conversations with anyone yet, and for many we are still getting to know each other. Finding the correct diagnosis is important, and we can’t move on before we have pinpointed what needs to be looked at more closely.
But even if we haven’t started on direct treatment yet, this first phase is hopefully already a step in the right direction. Although it’s necessary to go through some surveys and standardized questions, there is room for therapeutic work.
The first phase of therapy is often about stabilizion and education. By getting to know oneself better, the path for change is created. For traumatized victims, learning about how trauma effects the body, is crucial. For people with panic attacks, knowing the symptoms and normalizing them, helps a lot. If you understand what happens, it’s easier to start coping with it. In some ways, fear of symptoms is what many struggle with the most. When we face or monsters in a controlled way, we can finally watch them from afar and act like we want to.
Elizabeth Gilbert described in her book ‘big magic’ how she looked at fear: Fear is always with her, telling her that she should be careful. Prodding her to not take chances, because she might get hurt. She has learnt to thank her fear, because it wants to protect her. At the same time she also tells her fear that it can be there and monitor her surroundings if it wants to, but she must take command. She soothes herself by accepting that she will feel terrified and unsafe, at the same time as she assures herself that she can cope with what comes.
Many of my patients are still afraid. And that’s okay. We all are, often. I will not promise a rose-garden, but I want to explore the area they walk in no matter what is there.
They never got the chance to live in a warm home, cooking dinner. Laughing with their children. Instead some ended up at hospits, another shot of ampethamine running through their veins. One bad decision, and their lives were changed forever.
I have just watched an episode of ‘Kristine moves in’. It’s about a journalist moving into different institutions, and in this episode, she stayed at a hospits. She met wonderful people.
One of the addicts was an artist, paining beautiful pictures. But he had a difficult life, and he made some bad choices that will haunt him for the rest of his life. His talent in front of him in form of a perfect picture. If only he could wake up and see it clearly.
Whk are we to judge? Could we not be in the same position? What if we’d experienced abuse and trauma? Wouldn’t we want to escape?
We can sit in our warm houses. We can live our privileged lives. But we should never forget how lucky we are. When we tuck our children into bed at night, remember all the people who lost their chance to do the same. The people who could not provide for the people they love the most. Who were helpless against the addiction.
Remember all they never got.