Archive report of meeting

Thursday 16th May 2013

Past notice
What neuro-science tells us about anxiety disorders, trauma and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and possible treatment approaches
A talk by Christa Mackinnon

Christa Mackinnon believes every therapist should have some understanding of the brain, especially in the light of research in the field of psychiatric and psychological neuroscience, which increasingly uses neuroimaging techniques to study brain structure and function in the anxiety disorders generally, and in PTSD specifically.  

Christa Mackinnon
Christa Mackinnon

provides special study units on the subjects of trauma and PTSD, as well as Clinical Hypnosis, in her capacity as an Honorary Fellow at Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, and consults and trains occasionally for other organisations.  

However, since moving to Devon her focus has slightly shifted, and she concentrates mainly on writing [she is the author of: Shamanism and Spirituality in Therapeutic Practice CPD courses for Hypnotherapists and personal development workshops, combining indigenous and spiritual approaches with Western-style therapy. This reflects her lifelong fascination with the functioning of the human mind and altered states of consciousness, and her exploration of spiritual and shamanic approaches to mental healing in different parts of the world. including her studies in Ashrams in Asia.

Christa is nevertheless fully grounded in practical therapeutic work in the UK.  She has worked as a therapist, specialising in trauma, child abuse, PTSD and related mental/emotional issues; provided training and consultancy on these issues for different organisations and professionals, ranging from the police and probation services to mental health services, counsellors and therapists, here and abroad. She has also been an expert witness for the CPS in cases involving either clinical hypnosis or child abuse. And many Braid Society fans will know her through her work as the South West course director and a senior lecturer for the London College of Clinical Hypnosis, working in partnership with Thames Valley University.  

Learn more about Christa from her website


The overarching goal of this research is to elucidate the pathophysiology of anxiety disorders and PTSD to gain understanding of brain changes in sufferers and possibly use this understanding to enhance diagnosis, treatment and treatment-outcome evaluation.

Which was why at the Society's Mat 2013 meeting she presented a mini-masterclass on the functions of the brain.

This was a great opportunity to learn from an acknowledged expert for when learning about the brain it helps if one can locate the areas being discussed.

Human brain diagram

She reviewed and explained the findings of abnormalities in brain functions and structures in PTSD sufferers, focusing on the changes which can be seen in the amygdala, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and the hippocampus.

In addition Christa briefly discussed whether these changes were the result of trauma exposure or have been there before the exposure, as a vulnerability factor that led to the development of PTSD.

The talk also focused on what these changes meant, in ‘real terms’, for the client, how they could inform the therapist’s treatment approaches and whether they could be used as biological markers for testing treatment outcomes.

Members and guests attending the talk were advice that it might be helpful to have their own simple version of a model of the human brain – which can be download free from the Internet.

This simple but useful model is available at – – there are links to a paper model of the human brain which can be printed off on A4 sheets.


model of human brain