Wednesday, December 10, 2008

STUDY FINDS LOW INCOME YOUNG HAVE DIFFERENT BRAIN FUNCTIONS

Science Daily - University of California, Berkeley, researchers have shown for the first time that the brains of low-income children function differently from the brains of high-income kids. In a study recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, scientists at UC Berkeley's Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and the School of Public Health report that normal 9- and 10-year-olds differing only in socioeconomic status have detectable differences in the response of their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is critical for problem solving and creativity. . . "Kids from lower socioeconomic levels show brain physiology patterns similar to someone who actually had damage in the frontal lobe as an adult," said Robert Knight, director of the institute and a UC Berkeley professor of psychology. "We found that kids are more likely to have a low response if they have low socioeconomic status, though not everyone who is poor has low frontal lobe response." . . . Co-author W. Thomas Boyce, UC Berkeley professor emeritus of public health who currently is the British Columbia Leadership Chair of Child Development at the University of British Columbia, is not surprised by the results. . . .

Boyce, a pediatrician and developmental psychobiologist, heads a joint UC Berkeley/UBC research program called WINKS - Wellness in Kids - that looks at how the disadvantages of growing up in low socioeconomic circumstances change children's basic neural development over the first several years of life.

"This is a wake-up call," Knight said. "It's not just that these kids are poor and more likely to have health problems, but they might actually not be getting full brain development from the stressful and relatively impoverished environment associated with low socioeconomic status: fewer books, less reading, fewer games, fewer visits to museums."

Kishiyama, Knight and Boyce suspect that the brain differences can be eliminated by proper training. They are collaborating with UC Berkeley neuroscientists who use games to improve the prefrontal cortex function, and thus the reasoning ability, of school-age children.

"It's not a life sentence," Knight emphasized. "We think that with proper intervention and training, you could get improvement in both behavioral and physiological indices."

1 Comments:

At December 12, 2008 7:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And what will science do should it discover that some of the functional differences may be present pre-birth, the cause of congenital happenstance? Or even, lord help us, in some cases at least, that these differences might be the result of heritable traits passed down over successive generations? What then? Do we, as a society, simply reconcile ourselves to the idea that poverty may well be genetic and conclude that the poor 'have it in their blood' so to speak, and thus will always be with us?

 

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