Childhood Poverty Linked to Academic Shortfall: Study

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New research published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics suggests that childhood poverty can produce structural changes in the brain and result in academic insufficiency.

For the study, Seth Pollak, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his team analyzed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of 389 children and adolescents between the ages of four and 22 years old. These children were developing at a typical rate (sociodemographic and neuroimaging data were available for the team to analyze.)

Cognitive and academic achievement test results were taken with the scans of brain tissue, which included gray matter of the brain, the hippocampus, the temporal lobe, and the frontal lobe.

The researchers found that regional gray matter was between eight percent and 10% below the normal development level for a child’s brain who fell under the federal poverty level.

The regional gray matter was three to four percent below the developmental norm for children who lived below 150% of the federal poverty level. Children who come from low-income housing scored four to seven points lower on tests.

The study concludes that the development in certain brain regions appears to be sensitive to a child’s environment and nurturance.

The team believes that interventions aimed at improving a child’s environment could modify the link between childhood poverty and academic insufficiency.

Source for Today’s Article:
MacGill, M., “Poorer children develop ‘smaller brains’,” Medical News Today web site, July 21, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/296998.php.

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