Dr. Carrion is Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Head of the Early Life Stress Research Program. In this current study, in addition to teaching mindfulness practices to help 7th graders relax and concentrate better, he and colleagues are also using functional brain imaging to measure the impact of stress on the brain. Dr. Carrion told Jeffrey Brown of the PBS Newshour that they are identifying how areas of the brain essential for learning can be impacted by stress. They believe that chronic stress, if not addressed and treated, can cause cognitive impairment and PTSD.
Children who have suffered trauma or chronic stress “learn to cope if we teach them,” Dr. Carrion told the Newshour. “If we don’t do anything, their PTSD is not going to go away. By adolescence for example, individuals may develop self-injurious behavior or they may develop substance abuse as a way of self-medicating. So if PTSD is not addressed, if avoided, it’s just going to get worse,” Dr. Carrion said.