Neurobiological mechanisms of emotional relief in adolescents with a history of sexual abuse


  • Pia Pechtel

    University of Exeter

Project summary

Adolescents with a history of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) use non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) more often than their peers. Although NSSI provides temporary emotional relief, it also increases the young person's risk of hospitalisations and suicide. Effective therapies to support adolescents who use NSSI are sparse. This is possibly due to our lack of understanding of NSSI and how it provides relief, particularly for adolescents who have experienced CSA.

I will use functional magnetic neuroimaging to identify the brain processes that occur when adolescents with and without CSA experience relief from NSSI. I will also explore if people with a history of CSA choose to 'escape' a stressor and seek relief more quickly and more often than peers who have not been abused. 

These findings will highlight how relief from NSSI is achieved, which will help us develop more effective intervention strategies to keep vulnerable teenagers safe.