Science & Tech

The Effects of Poverty on Brain Development

  • Frederich Engels discovered in 1844 that poor living conditions had physical impacts on the impoverished, manifested in a variety of health problems.
  • In the 1960s, neuroscientists discovered that growing up in poverty hampered brain development in rats.
  • Recent research has linked low-income households to decreased cortical volume, poor scholastic achievement, and a smaller hippocampus in human children.

The Relationship Between Poverty and Cognitive Development

  • The Impact of Poverty on the Brain: Poverty has been shown to have an impact on brain development in children and adolescents.
  • Academic Performance and the Cortex: Children from low-income homes had reduced cortical volume and scored badly on academic assessments, according to research published in 2015.
  • The Hippocampus’s Importance: Another study published in 2015 found a link between family financial level and the volume of the hippocampus, a critical region for learning and memory.

A new study on anti-poverty policies and the size of the hippocampus has been published

  • The Research: Harvard University and Washington University researchers completed a study that was published in the journal Nature Communication in May 2023.
  • Data: The study examined brain scans of over 10,000 children aged 9 to 11 from 17 different U.S. states with various living costs and anti-poverty programmes.
  • Findings: Children from low-income homes had a smaller hippocampus, but generous anti-poverty programmes lowered this risk dramatically.
  • Public Policies at the State Level: The study emphasises the possibility for state-level public measures to address the link between brain development and poverty.

Consequences for Children’s Health and Well-Being

  • Impaired hippocampus development is linked to an increased risk of mental health concerns such as major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Internalising and Externalising Psychopathologies in Children: The study discovered a link between family wealth and the occurrence of internalising and externalising psychopathologies in children.
  • Anti-Poverty Policies’ Impact: Generous monetary advantages were linked to greater hippocampus volumes and fewer internalising issues in low-income households.

Considerations and Restrictions

  • Poverty is frequently the result of systematic discrimination, such as racial inequality.
  • Alternative Explanations: Although the study attempted to rule out alternative explanations such as racial and ethnic characteristics, it recognised the need for additional research.
  • Applicability in Other Contexts: Due to differences in macroeconomic situations, the study’s conclusions may not be immediately applicable to other nations such as India.
  • The Welfare and Policy Role: Access to more financial resources can help insulate families from chronic stressors associated with low income, potentially altering hippocampus development.

Generous Anti-Poverty Policies:

  • These policies not only enhance family income, but also allow families to adopt stress-reducing options, such as working less hours.
  • Investing in Social Safety Net Programmes: Social safety net programmes can help to reduce socioeconomic gaps in neurodevelopment by addressing mental health, education, and economic issues.

@the end

  • Longitudinal Study: The researchers will continue to examine the participants’ mental health and brain development trajectories to determine the impact of policy changes.
  • The Study Highlights the Importance of Social Safety Net Programmes: The study emphasises the importance of investing in social safety net programmes to alleviate the impacts of socioeconomic inequities in brain development.
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