Trauma and Timing (2013-2014)

Events that occur before, during and after a traumatic event determine how the traumatic event affects each individual.  How does this inform diagnosis and treatment?

Understanding the effects of neuropsychological trauma requires an integration of knowledge about its biological and neural basis, its behavioral presentation and its cultural conceptualization alongside related categories of human experience. This project united faculty and students from neuroscience, psychiatry, psychology global health and the humanities to study questions of timing in relation to diagnostic, clinical and neurobiological paradigms of neuropsychological trauma. Changes in the forthcoming DSM V classification of posttraumatic stress disorder arguably reflect a loosening of its association with the biology of fear and pain responses to an isolated event, in part through new attention to cumulative traumatic experiences of adversity. Clinical approaches to “debriefing” and other narrative reconstitutions of traumatic experience, including the psychoanalytic “talking cure,” reflect an eclectic array of research questions and answers concerning the safety and value of verbal therapeutic encounters at different moments of the post-traumatic trajectory.

Neuroanatomical studies of the role of the amygdala, which regulates fear and anxiety responses, in PTSD have recently raised the question of whether neuropsychological trauma causes reduction in the volume of the amygdala, or whether a smaller amygdala reflects greater vulnerability to the effects of traumatic stress. Clarification of questions of timing in pre-, peri- and posttraumatic experience are increasingly essential to effective research, diagnosis and treatment of neuropsychological trauma.

This project team identified contentious issues of timing in recent neuroscience research and mental health diagnostic and clinical approaches, partly through analysis of literature and partly by exposure of team members to diverse clinical, laboratory, fMRI, global mental health and humanities approaches to neuropsychological trauma. The team then wrote an article unifying this currently fragmented field of research on neuropsychological trauma and timing.



Team Outcomes

H-SPRINT E in Post-Earthquake Haiti: Transcultural Use of Psychometric Instruments (poster by Jennie Xu, Deborah Jenson)

Can We Heal with Metaphor? Figurative Language in Psychoanalytic Approaches to Trauma (poster by Clara Colombatto, Dhipthi Mulligan)

Neurobehavioral Mechanisms of Fear Generalization in PTSD (paper by Lei Zhang)

Physiological Risk Factors for Developing PTSD (document by John Hosey)

Pre-trauma Timeline

Present-tense Trauma Timeline

Peri-trauma Timeline

Continuous Trauma Timeline


Clara Colombatto, Neuroscience and Philosophy ’15

This Team in the News

Clara Colombatto: My Bass Connections Pathway

Bass Connections helped me develop an insight into my skills and interests that will be crucial in guiding my future choices. Through my involvement I realized the power of collaboration and the importance of problem-based work; these will be guiding criteria in choosing a doctoral program that matches my goals. —Clara Colombatto

Team Leaders

  • Deborah Jenson, Arts & Sciences-Romance Studies
  • Brandon Kohrt, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Rajendra Morey, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Dhipthi Mulligan, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • David Rubin, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Clara Colombatto, Neuroscience (BS), Philosophy (AB2)
  • John Hosey, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Jennie Xu, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Lei Zhang, Neuroscience (BS)