Is this science, or a PC agenda? Problematic research on childhood maltreatment and its effects

This 2013 Wisconsin human study’s goal was to assess effects of childhood trauma using both functional MRI scans and self-reported answers to a questionnaire. The families of the study’s subjects (64 18-year-olds) had been participating with researchers, possibly as early as 1990, which was before the teenagers were born.

The first questionable thing I saw was: How were the teenagers supposed to give cerebral answers to describe events that may have taken place very early in their lives – before their cerebrums were developed?

Even if the subjects were old enough to remember, would they give accurate answers to statements such as:

“My parents were too drunk or high to take care of the family.

Somebody in my family hit me so hard that it left me with bruises or marks.”

knowing that affirmative answers would prompt a visit to their family from a government employee?


The second questionable thing was: Although the data was presumably available, the researchers were unwilling to publicly consider the teenagers’ lives in their early childhood, infancy, and before birth.

The study intentionally dismissed that early periods in their subjects’ lives had any bearing as to who they were at age 18. The study’s design thus ignored the findings of hundreds of applicable, peer-reviewed, publicly-published, research studies.

Was the researchers’ limited window due to the political incorrectness of adequately placing importance in the human fetus’ experience of the development environment provided by their mother? The evidence was there for those willing to see.


What would be clues in the teenagers of traumatic events that impacted their limbic systems and lower brains during infancy and womb life? One big clue was provided by the lead researcher’s quote in a news article of the study:

“These kids seem to be afraid everywhere,” he says. “It’s like they’ve lost the ability to put a contextual limit on when they’re going to be afraid and when they’re not.”

Unless the lead researcher was exaggerating, in my view this finding of “fear without context” makes the most sense for describing the later-life effects of traumas that were encountered in utero and during infancy. A pregnant woman’s terror and fear can register on the fetus’ lower brain and the amygdala part of the limbic system from the third trimester onward.

Storing a memory’s context is one of the functions that the hippocampus part of the limbic system performs when fully developed. Because the hippocampus develops later than the amygdala, though, it would be unable to provide a context for any earlier feelings and sensations such as fear and terror.

The researchers attempted to place the finding of unfocused fear into later stages of child development without doing the necessary research. They tried to force this finding into the subjects’ later development years by citing rat fear-extinction and other marginally related studies.

However, citing these studies didn’t make them applicable to the current study. Cause and effect wasn’t demonstrated in the current study by noting various other “is associated with” studies’ findings.


Was this science? Or was it part of furthering some agenda like protection of publicly funded jobs?

Was this study published to make a contribution to science? If not, did this study also represent a failure of the peer review process? Were the reviewers even interested in advancing science?

And what about the 64 18-year-old subjects? If the lead researcher’s statement was accurate, I doubt that these teenagers have had help that addressed what they really need.

http://www.pnas.org/content/110/47/19119.full “Childhood maltreatment is associated with altered fear circuitry and increased internalizing symptoms by late adolescence”

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