Renowned Psychiatrist to Present on Child Trauma, Brain Development

Dr. Bruce Perry explains link between chronic poverty and brain biology in children

Dr. Bruce Perry

OXFORD, Miss. – Internationally renowned psychiatrist Dr. Bruce Perry will present his research on how trauma related to chronic poverty negatively affects brain development in children during a special lecture at 10 a.m. Feb. 7 at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson.

Free to anyone who registers online, the event is coordinated by the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning, or GCSEL, at the University of Mississippi.

A researcher, clinician and educator for more than 30 years, Perry is recognized as an authority on children in crisis and serves as the senior fellow of ChildTrauma Academy in Houston. He also teaches at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.

“We are extremely excited that Dr. Perry is coming to share his decades-long research and expertise with us,” said Cathy Grace, GCSEL co-director. “With almost 60 percent of young children in Mississippi living in poverty, Dr. Perry’s remarks are timely and emphasizes once again, the importance of increased access to high quality early childhood education for all of our children.”

Perry’s address will focus on the importance of positive human relationships and the need to provide consistent, nurturing, structured and enriching environments for children.

“The human brain has remarkable malleability during development,” Perry said. “Experiences of early childhood shape the developing brain by providing a range of social, emotional, motor and cognitive experiences that will literally impact the number and density of synaptic connections, neurons and neural networks in the infant brain.

“This presentation will discuss the vital importance of supporting and fostering brain development from infancy throughout early childhood.”

Perry’s research focuses on integrating developmental neuroscience into clinical practice. This work has blazed new trails in understanding how childhood experiences – such as neglect, trauma and stress – change the biological makeup of the brain and have a negative impact on children’s health and other long-term outcomes.

The author of multiple books and more than 500 journal articles or chapters, he has served as an expert consultant on prominent cases involving child trauma including: the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Columbine school shootings in 1999 and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Perry previously served as the Trammell Research Professor of child psychiatry at the Baylor College of Medicine as well as chief of psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas. He holds both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Northwestern University and completed his residency at the Yale University School of Medicine and fellowship at the University of Chicago.

The event is the latest installment in an ongoing speaker series coordinated by GCSEL. The series brings experts from across the nation to meet with Mississippi business leaders, educators and policymakers to discuss the benefits of quality early childhood education for children.

Mississippi does not offer universally funded public early childhood education. State-funded Early Learning Collaboratives – which comprise Head Start agencies, school districts, child care centers and nonprofits and adhere to standards from the National Institute for Early Education Research – provide early childhood education programs at 14 sites statewide, reports the Mississippi Department of Education.

Last year, the center hosted three events in Jackson with leading researchers. They were Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman; researchers Craig and Sharon Ramey, leaders of the Abecedarian Project; and neuroscience researcher and physician Dr. Pat Levitt.

The series is co-sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, North Mississippi Education Consortium,  Mississippi Kids Count and the UM School of Education.

About Andrew M. Abernathy