Are 50 Shades of Grey behaviors learned in infancy?

Ever wonder how someone could become attached to their early childhood abuser?

Ever wonder what underlying neurobiological conditions may account for the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey?

A 2014 rodent study linked below showed how trauma changed infants’ limbic system and lower brains. As adults, they derived a neurochemical benefit from re-experiencing the traumatic conditions:

“Trauma and pain experienced in infancy clearly led to higher rates of adult rat depression-like behavior..(but) the infant brain has limited ability to link trauma to fear areas in the brain, such as the amygdala.

These results are surprising because cues associated with trauma experienced as adults provoke fear and do not rescue depressive behavior.

It is possible that giving SSRI medications to children could be detrimental to mental health in adulthood,” Dr. Sullivan says. “We believe that our research offers the first evidence for the impact of serotonin pathways.

The infant trauma increases serotonin to produce brain programming of later life depression, and the infant trauma cue increases serotonin to alleviate the adult depressive like symptoms.”


As the study may apply to humans, let’s say that as an infant, someone was traumatized by a caregiver who, for example, bound them too tightly and left them alone for too long. What adult behaviors and other symptoms may develop as results? The person may:

  • Show depression-like symptoms that would strangely be alleviated by being bound tightly and left alone for an extended period.
  • Develop attachments to people who treated them poorly in a way that triggered them to re-experience their early childhood traumas.
  • Feel their mood lift when their infancy traumas were cued.
  • Be unable to explain and integrate with their cerebrum what was going on with their limbic system and lower brains.
  • Be caught in a circle of acting out their feelings and impulses, with unfulfilling results.

Isn’t it curious that this acting-out behavior – driven by unconscious memories of traumatic conditions – is a subject for popular entertainment? It may have resonated with personal experiences of the people who read the books and watched the movie.


What about people who want to be relieved of their symptomatic behavior? Is it a justifiable practice:

  • To pass affected people over to talk therapies that aren’t interested in directly treating the cause – a neurobiological condition that exists in the limbic system and lower brains – only the symptoms?
  • To drug affected people with the neurochemicals that their condition makes scarce – the symptoms – instead of addressing the source?

A principle of Dr. Arthur Janov’s Primal Therapy is that people are capable of treating their own originating neurobiological conditions. One of the therapeutic results is that the patient is relieved of being caught in endless circles of acting-out behavior.

That way we can have our own lives, and not be driven by what happened during early stages of our lives.

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/3/881.full “Enduring good memories of infant trauma: Rescue of adult neurobehavioral deficits via amygdala serotonin and corticosterone interaction”

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