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Children born in poverty show major differences in brain function, study shows

Published on 03/04/19 at 10:54am

Children born into poverty show major differences in early brain function, according to research from the University of East Anglia.

Children aged between four months and four years old, from lower income families in rural India, had weaker brain activity and were more likely to be distracted, compared to children in Midwest America.

The team, which included researchers from the University of Stirling, used a portable near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) device to measure the brain activity of 42 children in Uttar Pradesh, the most highly populated state in India.

The research team found that children in India from families with low maternal education and income, showed weaker brain activity and poorer distractor suppression in the left frontal cortex area of the brain that is involved in working memory.

“Previous work has shown that poverty and early adversities significantly impact brain development, contributing to a vicious cycle of poverty. But few studies have looked at brain function early in development,” the researchers said.

“We wanted to find out more about the functional brain development of children born into poorer backgrounds to see why many do not reach their full potential. This work is the first step in intervention efforts designed to boost early brain health before adversity can take hold.”

However the researchers noted that: “Although the impact of adversity on brain development can trap children in an intergenerational cycle of poverty, the massive potential for brain plasticity is also a source of hope.”

Louis Goss

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