Brain Structure and Function I: Perry
The adult brain weighs about three pounds. This three pounds of, primarily,
water and fat, allows us to walk and talk; to laugh, cry and touch; to love, hate,
create or destroy. Everything we do, everything we think, everything we feel, every
wish, dream, regret and hope is mediated by our brain.
Our brain guides us through
our lives. By sensing the world around us, storing some fragment of each unique
moment, cataloguing, sorting, organizing and acting on our experiences, our brain
It is the brain that allows us to be connected to each other in the present.
It is the brain that links us to the past as our language, religion, economies,
technologies – essentially all of our cultural practices - reflect the distilled
experiences of thousands of generations of our ancestors.
And it is the brain that
connects us to the future as we pass elements of our life experience to the next
It is the brain that allowed humankind to create humanity.
The purpose of this booklet is to provide background information about the
brain’s structure and function that create the framework for understanding the
impact that maltreatment or trauma may have on the developing child.
of professionals working with maltreated children do not have a background in biology
or the neurosciences.
This booklet is targeted at the wide group of non-
neuroscientists working with maltreated children.
Understanding of the rudiments of
human brain function and brain development can provide very useful and practical
insight to the, all-too-often, puzzling emotional, behavioral, cognitive, social and
physical problems that the interdisciplinary team faces when working with maltreated
The Brain’s Prime Directive
Sharks sense blood in water, dogs hear very high pitched sounds, bears detect
scents from miles away, geese navigate thousand mile migrations somehow sensing
magnetic fields of the earth, hawks see the movement of prey from hundreds of feet
in the air and snakes “sense” body heat.
Each of these unique capabilities is
mediated by the animal’s brain.
Their brain’s capacities to sense, process and act are
designed to help keep them alive – to find food, to avoid threat, to procreate and
keep the species going.
It is, in many regards, the same for us.
We need a brain to
keep our species going.
Without the unique properties of the brain, humankind would