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Running head: RESILIENCY AND NEUROPLASTICITY

Resiliency and Neuroplasticity: Adaptation After Adversity Diana G. Nunez Salt Lake Community College

Running head: RESILIENCY AND NEUROPLASTICITY

From birth and throughout our life, people face different situations that help us to learn and develop, but not always are there favorable conditions. In situations of great stress or adversity, the mind can help us to adapt to them, and thus overcome the trauma for a better life. The human being is capable of dealing with distress to overcome traumatic situations, through resiliency and neuroplasticity. According to Kathleen Stassen Berger, resiliency is the capacity to adapt well despite significant adversity and to overcome serious stress.(Invitation to the Life Span, 2010, p.G-11). Neuroplasticity is the capacity of the brain to made adaptations to different environments. According to Leah Nelson (2006), about neuroplasticity the brain is almost infinitely adaptable from earliest infancy through latest adulthood. Although their research approached the topic from different angles, each presenter demonstrated the brains extraordinary capacity to bend, stretch, expand, and specialize itself in response to challenges. (qtd. In Nelson, 2006, p.27). The human brain can adapt to different situation though life. There are different studies to show that. Walter Mischel discovered in the brain two representations of the objects, one cool and one hot. The cool is an imaginary idea and the hot is a rewarding of something. Since born, the people want the gratification, but this can be modeled. In an experiment using the imagination in children Mischel found that the imagination can help to protect situations not entirely pleasant. They can have different reactions, according to their idea. In this experiment, Mischel used one real cake and one imaginary cake. They need to imagine that the real cake was only an image, and vice verse. Their physical reactions change after imagine the news situations (qtd. in Nelson, 2006, p.28). The power of the main over body begins in childhood, and is a form of adaptation to general situations. Sir Michael Rutter has a theory about the effects of the deprivation. He studied the change in some Rumanians children before and after some years in

Running head: RESILIENCY AND NEUROPLASTICITY

adoptions. When the kids left the orphanages, they showed mental retardation; some years after, their condition had change to normal. Despite having suffered the same deprivation and the made a change of the environment, progress was no equal in all children. Different factors influenced the outcome, such as age of the children, the time they were in the orphanage and the environment to which they arrived. According to Rutter plasticity must vary from child to child that individual brains will respond to similar extreme circumstances in completely different ways. (p.28). Every person has diereses levels of adaptation in the same circumstances. Adults can learn from children how to made adaptation to new circumstances. In a study made for Alison Gopnik suggests that adults can use the imagination as do the children. They can create their owns ideas about what happens around them, they experiment, and they ask questions, and seek to understand. They try to adapt their responses to their ideas. That is the way to use the plasticity (qtd. in Nelson, 2006, p.28). Children can have their owns explanations about situations that they can observe, using their imagination and later they can change that. The ability to mental adaption continued in adults but they made that in specific situations. David Kicked made an experiment with adult owl monkeys to probe the adaptation in the main according to different stimuli. He exposed the monkeys to different tones of sound and the creatures began to adapt to the sounds. The monkeys were able to distinguish between different shades which initially did not recognize. He found this an indictor of the neural activity after repetitive activity (qtd. in Nelson, 2006, p.27). Like humans, some species of the animal kingdom, can learn to adapt to change. Michael Merzenich made a study with elderly people. He found that their brains can adapt to specific necessities. Children can adapt to different events they begin to experience, until they develop the ability to focus on something more specific. As the brain ages, it becomes slower and this is a reversible process with training. Elderly people

Running head: RESILIENCY AND NEUROPLASTICITY

can regain the ability they had some 10 to 25 years ago (qtd. in Nelson, 2006, p.27). Thought life, people adapt to the circumstances around us .Children perceive the new experience as a part of learning and they can made the adaptation in a general way. Adults can focus on specifics situations according to their necessities. Children who suffer sexually abused are more susceptible to present emotional disorders, but dont happen in all of the abused children. According with Ann Master (2008), resilience is a function of temperament, will or intelligence. (p.2). If the children have an adult close to them to provide support, the child could have more possibilities to overcome the problem. (p.2). Sexual abuse makes a deep damage in child, that produce post-traumatic stress disorder in child equal to the trauma suffer for combat veteran. (qtd. in Herman, 2008, p.6). This helps to understand the magnitude of the problem, and the reason is because the abused children need something to help to make an adaptation in their lives after terrible event. Resilience is not only emotional, but has genetic influences too. According to Bazelon, (2008), in 2003, Terry Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi, discussed the relationship between the gene, 5-HTT, and childhood maltreatment in causing depression. Scientists have determined that 5-HTT is critical for the regulation of serotonin to the brain. Proper regulation of serotonin helps promote well-being and protects against depression in response to trauma or stress. In humans, each 5-HTT gene has two alleles, and each allele occurs in either a short or a long version. Scientists are still figuring out how the short allele affects serotonin delivery, but it seems that people with at least one short 5-HTT allele are more prone to depression (p.3).

Running head: RESILIENCY AND NEUROPLASTICITY

This explains why some children have more suppression than others. The child with two larges alleles, are more susceptible to averment the stress because have the protective version of the gene. The child whit short alleles are at moderate risk of depression (qtd. in Bazelon, 2006, p.8). Stressful situations trigger the appearance of this gene. In another study made by Caspi and Moffitt, they observed a considerable group of people and they found that they suffer stress because in their childhood they suffered adversity. The people to have two short allele were more susceptible to depression (qtd. in Bazelon, 2008, p.3). The people with two long alleles were more likely to overcome the trauma. Stephen Suomi made an interesting study with monkeys. She formed two groups of monkeys. After their birth, a few are left with their mom; others were separate from their mothers to simulate the trauma of abused children. Motherless monkeys were in incubators for two weeks, and then they joined a group of monkeys. In the presence of strangers, the monkeys who grew up with their mothers remained in the center of the cage. The motherless monkeys were on the edge of the cage. Stephen Suomi said "How you grow up affects your hormonal output and the structure and function of the brain" (qtd. in Bazelon, 2008, p.4). Joan Kaufman said If the children with two short alleles saw the adults they counted on daily or almost daily, their depression scores were very close to the scores of the children with two long protective alleles and within reach of the children who had not been abused(qtd. in Bazelon, 2008, p.3) He explains that genes contribute to adaptation, but other important factor is people to support the child. Resilience and neuroplasticity are how humans adapt to adverse situations. The experiences we have in childhood determine how our brain develops. Studies show that in

Running head: RESILIENCY AND NEUROPLASTICITY

painful situations, we can develop genes that help us to adapt to overcome trauma. It is also important to have adult support during the process of resiliency. This will help greatly to be able to lead a better life.

Running head: RESILIENCY AND NEUROPLASTICITY

References Bazelon, E. (2006, Apr 30). A question of resilience. New York Times Magazine, 54- 59. Berger,K. S. (2010) Invitation to the life span: Worth Publishers Nelson, L. (2006) A learning machine: Plasticity and change thought life. APS Observer (pp 2728).

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