Faculty voice:

Apryl Pooley: Shadow Brain

April 8, 2015

Apryl Pooley is a Ph.D. candidate in the MSU Neuroscience Program and researcher in the Breedlove-Jordan Lab, where she researches how post-traumatic stress disorder affects the brain in men and women differently.

I am in a unique position of researching the very disorder with which I live – post-traumatic stress disorder. But no amount of scientific research will shed light onto what PTSD really is more than learning how this disorder affects every aspect of one’s life. Therefore, in conjunction with my scientific research, I openly share my story to expand public awareness of PTSD in order to help others recover from this debilitating disorder.

After experiencing a drug-facilitated rape at a fraternity house in 2003, my closest confidants blamed me for what happened and discouraged me from telling anybody else. In response, I kept silent and devoted the next 12 years of my life to figuring out what had happened to my own brain and body by pursuing college degrees in medical biology and neuroscience. But the first eight years of my studies were overshadowed by a battle with substance abuse and what I finally figured out in my doctoral studies to be PTSD.

I pursued science to find a cure for PTSD, but actually found relief when I stepped away from the microscope to connect with humanity. On Feb. 17, my memoir “Shadow Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Journey Through PTSD and Womanhood” was published. This story provides insight into the wide range of consequences of trauma, and most importantly, hope that the strength of the human spirit, body and brain can prevail through the most difficult times.

Celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, the MSU Sexual Assault Program is the oldest campus-based program of its kind, and I want to help them celebrate this milestone; therefore, I am donating 100 percent of the profits from my book to the SAP. I have also set up an Indiegogo fundraiser where a donation can get you cool perks like a signed copy of the book, a handmade bookmark from me and your name listed as a supporter in the next printing of the book.

The past year has been instrumental in acknowledging the sexual assault problem on college campuses, but there is still much controversy and confusion surrounding whether this purported rape issue is really happening, what it means and what to do about it. Working with a new activist and advocacy group, Community Leaders in Transformation, I hope to improve the climate and resources on the MSU campus for survivors of sexual and relationship violence.

Photo by Harley Seeley