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Brain development impacted by poverty

 
 
 
 
 
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Composite image showing the relationship between brain surface expansion and age in children 3-20 years.

Bigger brains and better cognitive skills in children are linked to higher family income and education, a research reveals.

The study, which was carried out by a group of researchers from the Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and Columbia University Medical Center, was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience on March 30.

“We found that the relationship between brain (structure) and family income impacted kids’ cognitive functioning,” AFP quoted study co-author Elizabeth Sowell of the University of Southern California as saying.

The study was carried out by testing 1,099 developing boys and girls aged three to 20, from variable population groups.

The team compared the education and incomes of the participants’ parents to the kids’ brain surface area and cognitive test results.

“It seems reasonable to speculate that resources afforded by the more affluent (nutrition, child care, schools, etc.) help ‘wire’ the brain through development,” she said.

“While in no way implying that a child’s socioeconomic circumstances lead to immutable changes in brain development or cognition, our data suggest that wider access to resources likely afforded by the more affluent may lead to differences in a child’s brain structure,” Sowell added.

The study emphasized that with better school lunches and motivated teaching and community programs the gap could be breached.

“The most important point we want to convey… is not ‘if you are poor, your brain will be smaller, and there is nothing that can be done about it.’ That is absolutely not the message!” she added.

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