ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Local researchers say more nurturing may protect children from brain changes linked to poverty.
Lead Washington University researcher Dr. Joan Luby identified changes in brain anatomy in children living in poverty. Poor children who didn’t have a nurturing home life tended to have less gray and white matter in their brains. They also had smaller parts of the brain linked to emotion, learning, and memory.
But Luby’s study also showed that the children living in poverty who had parents who were more supportive had better brain outcomes.
“This study really gives us a more feasible, tangible target and suggests that early interventions that target parenting may be tremendously important,” she explained.
The research suggests early interventions might even be able to reverse the brain changes if caught quickly enough.
Luby says there has been a lot of research showing poverty has negative effects on development but this is the first study to suggest what is it about poverty which is so detrimental to the developing brain.
“Exposure to poverty involves multiple risk factors. It involves possible declines in nutrition, differences in social support, exposure to increased stresses,” she said. “But what this study showed is that even children living in poverty who had parents who were more supportive had better brain outcomes.”