Poverty may hinder brain development in children

Parts of the brain tend to be smaller in people from poorer backgrounds than those from richer families, a new study suggests.

Columbia University researchers scanned the brains of more than 1,000 children aged three to 20 and found that those from higher income families had a cerebral cortex with greater surface area than those from poorer families. The brain region is crucial for the development of language, memory and reasoning skills.

Children from families with an income of more than $150,000 were about 6% larger than those in in children from families earning $25,000 or less.

“The brain is the product of both genetics and experience, and experience is particularly powerful in molding brain development in childhood,” said Kim Noble, first author on the study, which was published in Nature Neuroscience. “Interventions to improve socioeconomic circumstances, family life, and educational opportunities can make a vast difference.”

Possible reasons for the results are that families with financial problems tend to be more stressed and may have limited choices in diet.

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