Cynthia Hall and the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development - Toxic Stress


Toxic stress and the brain

About the client

Recent scientific developments and studies like the Adverse Childhood Experiences study have shown the toxic effect of stress on children both before and after birth. Producer and director Cynthia Hall, who also voices this film, is passionate about helping children who have suffered trauma. Cynthia came to us to create a third film about ‘Trust Based Relational-Intervention' for the Karen Purvis Institute of Child Development. The film raises awareness about the impacts of trauma on children’s brain development and describes how the TBRI® principles can be used to help children who have been exposed to toxic stress.

The challenge

This subject combines in-depth information about the makeup, development and functions of the brain, with the emotive and difficult subject of childhood neglect, abuse and trauma. In order to fully understand how effective TBRI® can be, it was vital to establish the relationship between the development of the brain and the experiences that shape it. This gave us a large volume of information to cover in a short space of time, however, by making full use of our Extra Narrative toolbox, we were able to create a compelling film that is both informative and sensitive in its handling of the subject.

The film

By birth a child has 100 billion neurons, organised by a synaptic network. These networks shape who we become and impact everything. Prolonged or severe abuse and neglect derails this network building process, even begin in the womb with toxic stress. The film looks at the way TBRI® can be used to undo this damage, through creating a calm, nurturing environment.

The visual language for this film combines literal, character-based illustration to create and emotional anchor, whilst using playful visual metaphor to explore the functions and anatomy of the brain. Language use in the script such as the ‘derailing’ of the development process lent itself to the use of a child’s wooden train set as an analogy for their life, brought back on track by the ‘connecting principles’.

The context

Find out more about TBRI (Trust-Based Relational Intervention) at the Karyn Purvis Institute of Childhood Development website.

The scrapbook