June 8, 2023

Research continues on impact of trauma on changes in brain

The connection between trauma and the brain is a topic that’s important to acknowledge in June during Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month. According to the National Center for PTSD, a program of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about six of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives for some reason. The Recovery Village reports the following PTSD statistics and facts:

  • 49% of rape victims will develop PTSD.
  • Nearly 32% of victims of severe physical assault develop PTSD.
  • 16.8% of people who are involved in serious accidents, such as car or train accidents, develop PTSD.
  • 15.4% of shooting and stabbing victims develop PTSD.
  • 14.3% of people who suddenly and unexpectedly experience the death of a close loved one develop PTSD.
  • Parents of children with life-threatening illnesses develop PTSD 10.4% of the time.
  • Witnessing the murder or serious injury or another person causes PTSD in 7.3% of people.
  • 3.8% of people who experience natural disasters develop PTSD. 

While most people are familiar with the term PTSD and its meaning, the deeper dive into how the brain is affected by trauma and the subsequent behaviors is less known.

The book, “The Body Keeps the Score,” written by Bessel Van Der Kolk, explores how trauma literally reshapes the body and brain.

In the prologue, titled “Facing Trauma,” Van Der Kolk writes about how three new branches of science – neuroscience, developmental psychopathology and interpersonal neurobiology – has led to increased knowledge about the effects of psychological trauma, abuse and neglect. 

Van Der Kolk writes: “Research from these new disciplines has revealed that trauma produces actual physiological changes, including a recalibration of the brain’s alarm system, an increase in stress hormone activity and alterations in the system that filters relevant information from irrelevant.”

Additionally, research was published in Communications Biology in late 2022, which sheds more light on how trauma changes the brain. The researchers hope that knowing what to look for in the brains of those who have suffered trauma will impact treatment options moving forward.

SupportLinc, provider of behavioral health services on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus, has resources available to help individuals and families navigate trauma. They include:

To get started utilizing SupportLinc, call 888-881-5462, or log in to the SupportLinc website or eConnect mobile app (available in the App Store and on Google Play) with username “purdue.”

As a reminder, all benefits-eligible Purdue employees have access to behavioral health services. More information can be found in this Purdue Today article.


To assist faculty and staff

Review the “Mental Health Resources” webpage for a variety of available resources for faculty and staff, including behavioral health resources for all Purdue campuses and information on Purdue’s health plan coverage for mental health and substance abuse. 

To assist students

Faculty and staff who work with students or have a student at home can direct them to the resources below for behavioral health assistance. Note: United Healthcare Student Resources (UHCSR) – medical plan provider for students and graduate students – offers 292 unique mental health providers serving at various locations that are in-network with UHCSR within Tippecanoe County. The list is available here. Additionally, students have access to HealthiestYou, which provides virtual access to mental health care as part of UHCSR’s plan. All services are free for students covered under the UHCSR insurance plan.

Office of the Dean of Students:

Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS):

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