The answer seems to be yes; not total reversal but enough to make a difference. A new study from Boston Children’s Hospital found that early neglect leaves changes in the brains of the victims, but, they state that positive intervention can ameliorate some of the damage. This was a study of institutionalized children from Romania. It was reported on in The National Academy of Sciences (July 23/12)(Read a news article about this). They showed significant improvement in these previously damaged children when placed in good foster homes. So yes, some damage can be undone but, in my experience, not all of it. In damaged children, there is less gray matter in the cortex as compared with normal children. Yet those who continued in institutions retained the damage.
The problem is that when there are spurts of growth of this gray matter during the critical period, it can be suppressed by neglect. And this is related to cognitive and learning abilities. They found that the younger the child is when placed in foster care, the better. No surprise. I can just imagine if I were taken out of the zoo I grew up and put into a decent home, what a difference it would have made. Because no matter how your later life goes, you never fully reverse the early damage. There was simply too much neurotic life before leaving the zoo.
Of those who were institutionalized, there is a greater prevalence of ADD and above all, premature cellular again — how long we will live. Early neglect means higher cortisol levels and that can mean more damage to memory and hippocampal functioning. Of course if we get out of the home during our late teens we have a better chance than if we stay into our twenties when behavioral patterns become set. Don’t forget the prefrontal cortex is not totally mature until our late twenties. We still have flexibility to change until then. After that we definitely need primal therapy. It was true of me and all of the patients I have seen. We have to undo embedded and imprinted experience kept in deep storage. Not easily done.