A new study shows that children raised from higher-income families have larger brains than those from lower-income families.
Researchers from nine universities in the U.S. studied the impact of poverty on the brain development of children. In the study, they scanned the brain of more than 1,000 children aged three to 20 years old and found that the surface area of the children’s cerebral cortex – an area of the brain linked to skills crucial for learning and academic success – expanded as family income rose.
Kids from families who made less than $25,000 (P1.125 million) have brains 6% smaller compared to kids from families who made $150,000 (P6.750 million), said Dr. Elizabeth Sowell, senior author of the study and director of the developmental cognitive neuroimaging lab at Children’s hospital, Los Angeles.
Parents who were better educated also had children who had a larger hippocampus – an area of the brain pivotal in short term memory and spatial navigation.
Researchers from the study, published in Nature Neuroscience, believe that the difference in brain size between the children was due to the difference in the environment the children grew up in: differences in nutrition, health care, schools, play areas, and other factors that play a role in brain development.
Researchers also found that those from higher-income families performed better on cognitive tests. They hypothesize that this may be because of their larger brain surface area.
“We know that experiences in the environment impact the way the brain wires itself through childhood and adolescence,” said Sowell. “If we could somehow enrich the environments of particularly the poorer children, we might be able to change that trajectory to equalize it, to some extent.”
Sources: March 30, 2015. "Brain development in children could be affected by poverty, study shows". theguardian.com March 30, 2015. "Study Reveals Shocking Effect Of Poverty On Children's Brain Development". huffingtonpost.com