Trauma and social perception

Team: Shirink Khakoo,  Jana Krank, Pia Kraushaar, Dirk Scheele

Childhood maltreatment dramatically increases the risk for psychiatric disorders accompanied by profound difficulties in social interactions. However, it is still unclear how childhood maltreatment affects social interactions in adulthood. We have previously found 

that adults with severe childhood maltreatment prefer a larger distance to an unfamiliar person and experience fast touch as less comforting than control subjects. Brain imaging revealed that individuals with childhood maltreatment exhibit hypersensitivity in the early sensory processing of social touch. 

In a follow-up study, we examine how childhood maltreatment may modulate threat sensitivity assessed by the distance at which an individual flees from an approaching threat. While rapid escape decisions rely on "reactive fear" circuits, slower escape decisions are associated with "cognitive fear" circuits. Based on the observation of altered early sensory processing, we expect that childhood maltreatment affects both cognitive and reactive fear circuits.