Neurobiology of Sexual Assault – Part 2: Experience and Memory

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90 Minutes

Originally Aired
September 19, 2016

Jim Hopper
James W. Hopper, Ph.D.
Clinical psychologist and independent consultant, Teaching Associate in Psychology, Harvard Medical School

Traumatic experiences have immediate, powerful and potentially long-lasting effects on the human brain. This presentation explains how fear and trauma can alter brain functioning during sexual assault, and alter the encoding and storage of memories in ways that are, unfortunately, still commonly misunderstood by many who work with victims of sexual assault.

Participants will learn about the key brain circuitries impacted by fear and trauma, including the prefrontal cortex and the circuitries of fear and episodic memory. Participants will come to understand brain-based aspects of memory encoding, storage and retrieval that determine what can later be recalled and not recalled, including in investigative interviews and in court. This presentation provides a critical foundation for learning and applying trauma-informed responses with people who have been sexually assaulted.


Following this webinar series, participants will be better able to:

  • Understand key brain circuitries impacted by fear and trauma.
  • Recognize common brain-based impacts of trauma on attention and memory encoding and storage.
  • Understand and utilize interviewing methods most likely to help sexual assault victims recall and report the most complete and accurate memories possible.

This project is supported by Grant No. 2013-TA-AX-K045 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

With a paid registration or subscription, you are free to personally listen to this webinar, as many times as you wish. You may also excerpt or cite the material following accepted conventions. However, you may not allow other individuals to listen to this webinar without their own registration or subscription.

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