Hurricanes can leave a lasting — and sometimes traumatic — impact on a child’s developing brain.
FIU researchers are investigating the effects of hurricanes and other natural disasters on brain development in children. For the first time ever, researchers are able to look on a large scale at both neurobiological and clinical information obtained before and after a hurricane makes landfall.
New research reveals that when a child is exposed to excessive pre-storm media coverage of a major climate event, like a hurricane, it can lead to post-traumatic stress (PTS) symptoms — even in children that live thousands of miles away from the storm’s path.
Using data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABDC) — the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States — FIU psychologists Jonathan Comer and Anthony Dick are comparing child brain function before and after Hurricane Irma — one of the extremely powerful and devastating storms in recent years — with the intention of studying children’s response to disasters more generally. They examined pre-and post-hurricane brain function, mood and thinking of 450 children — and found a connection between exposure to television and online news consumed before the storm’s landfall and the later development of PTS symptoms.
Media exposure can impact children — regardless of proximity to the disaster. Even children living thousands of miles away from the storm’s project path experienced mental health consequences.