Workshop date/time: Tuesday 19 November 2013, 10.30am – 2.00pm

Venue: Anna Freud Centre, 12 Maresfield Gardens, London NW3 5SU. Map here.

PAC is delighted to be working with a team at UCL led by Dr Eamon McCrory which is conducting research into the neuroscience of resilience and early adversity.

PAC will be assisting the team in the recruitment of children aged between 10 and 14 with prior experiences of adversity to take part in the next phase of their research.

As part of this collaboration PAC is pleased to announce a free workshop on 19 November 2013 entitled The Neuroscience of Resilience and Early Adversity, for adoptive parents who may be interested in this topic. The workshop will be convened by Dr McCrory with the aim of providing an accessible overview of current research in the field. Workshop places are limited and preference will be given to those parents who may be interested in participating in the research.

To register and for practical details please contact Sophie Samuel at the Development Risk and Resilience Unit, UCL:

There will be opportunity within the workshop to find out more about the research and what is involved for the children taking part. If you have any urgent questions prior to the day please contact Franca Brenninkmeyer, Head of PAC’s Child & Family Service:


How does early adversity impact the brain? Can neuroscience shed new light on age-old questions about resilience? These, and other questions are now being addressed by a research group at UCL led by Dr Eamon McCrory.

“We know surprisingly little about how different forms of adversity influence how the brain works, despite the impression that neuroscience is a fully established field” writes Dr McCrory. “Why does maltreatment increase vulnerability to later mental health problems in some children and yet others show such resilience? As clinicians interested in better outcomes for children, such questions are what really motivate our work”.

In the first functional MRI study of maltreatment and emotional processing in children, Dr McCrory and his colleagues reported that children exposed to family violence show the same pattern of activity in their brains as soldiers exposed to combat. Just like soldiers with experience of battle, abused children’s brains show heightened activity in two brain regions that are known to be associated with detecting threat, suggesting that children had adapted to the demands of a challenging home environment. This is contrary to the idea that maltreatment is associated with brain ‘damage’ – rather the brain appears to adapt in ways that may have short term benefits but which has longer term costs. When the child is in a more ‘normal’ environment such as school or in a safe foster/adoptive placement, heightened sensitivity to threat probably becomes unhelpful. This work is explored in a BBC radio interview for those who wish to find out more.

In their most recent study Dr McCrory subliminally presented ‘threat’ cues – in the form of angry faces – to children while in the scanner. “Children were engaged in a simple visual task. But we presented happy, angry and neutral faces for 17 milliseconds at various times, which is outside of conscious awareness (so the children did not consciously ‘see’ anything). Strikingly, children previously exposed to early adversity compared to their peers showed significantly greater activation to angry faces, even though the children had not consciously even seen any faces”. These findings point to a profound pattern of hypervigilance beyond the child’s own awareness that may be linked to sudden behavioural changes if a sense of threat is triggered.

PAC is delighted to be working with the UCL research team in the next phase of their research, and will be assisting them in recruiting new participants (children aged 10-14) with prior experiences of adversity.

This recruitment is to support a new longitudinal study being launched in autumn 2013, in which children will be scanned at two time points over two years. This is extremely exciting, as it will allow for the first time questions of plasticity to be examined.  It will also allow researchers to properly examine resilience.