14 de mayo de 2007

El daño que causa el estrés infantil


El alto nivel de estrés podría dejar cicatrices físicas en el cerebro de los niños, revela un estudio.

Específicamente, el estrés puede causar daños en el área cerebral relacionada a la memoria y las emociones.

Los científicos de la Universidad de Stanford, en Estados Unidos, descubrieron que esa zona, el hipocampo, se había encogido en niños con Trastorno de Estrés Postraumático o PTSD, por sus siglas en inglés.

EL PTSD es una condición que se origina tras haber sufrido u observado un acontecimiento altamente traumático, como un atentado, accidente o violencia, en el que está en riesgo la vida de personas.

El estudio, que publica la revista Pediatrics, señala que un hipocampo debilitado podría obstaculizar la capacidad del niño para enfrentar el estrés y podría aumentar la ansiedad.

La investigación también encontró en la sangre de los niños niveles más altos de la hormona del estrés, llamada cortisol.

En estudios anteriores realizados en animales se ha demostrado que esta hormona destruye las células del hipocampo.

Esto, dicen los científicos, puede crear un círculo vicioso en el que altos niveles de cortisona causan más daños en el hipocampo, lo que a su vez eleva la ansiedad.

Los investigadores estadounidenses creen también que el daño frecuente al hipocampo podría prolongar los síntomas del estrés e interferir con la terapia de los niños.

Estrés extremo

Los científicos subrayan que no están hablando del estrés relacionado a la tarea escolar o a las peleas familiares.

"Para provocar ese daño cerebral -afirma el estudio- el estrés debe ser extremo".

"Son niños que sienten como si estuvieran sin poderse mover en medio de una calle mientras un camión se aproxima rápidamente hacia ellos", señalan.

Los 15 niños estudiados por los investigadores sufrían de PTSD como resultado de abuso físico, emocional o sexual, o porque habían sido testigos de violencia o experimentado una separación o pérdida.

Los científicos afirman que es importante entender por qué algunos niños parecen ser más fuertes frente al estrés que otros, así como cuáles son los efectos a largo plazo del estrés extremo.

Se sabe ya que los genes y el medio ambiente de una persona juegan un papel importante.

Y también se conoce que haber sufrido PTSD siendo niño aumenta los riesgos de depresión y ansiedad durante la adultez.

Se calcula que una de cada 10 personas podría desarrollar PTSD en algún momento de su vida.

Los expertos afirman que este estudio es sólo "la punta del iceberg" y ahora planean llevar a cabo más investigaciones para desarrollar terapias más efectivas e individualizadas para ayudar a los niños que sufren este trastorno.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/science/newsid_6419000/6419213.stm

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