20 Pages

A Biological Model for Delayed Recall of Childhood Abuse

WithJ. Douglas Bremner

This chapter presents a biological model for delayed recall of episodes of childhood abuse. Changes in brain structures and systems mediating memory offer a possible explanation for delayed recall of childhood abuse in patients with abuse-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Self-reported childhood sexual abuse affects 16% of women in this country at some time before their 18th birthday and one million new cases of childhood abuse are documented each year. Alterations in memory form an important part of the clinical presentation of patients with childhood abuse-related PTSD. Many abuse victims claim to remember only certain aspects of the abuse event, a phenomenon related to dissociative amnesia. The clinical and scientific literature related to delayed recall of childhood abuse has become polarized with two conflicting viewpoints related to whether or not delayed recall of childhood abuse are valid. Stress-induced hippocampal damage represents one possible mechanism for delayed recall of childhood abuse.