WASHINGTON — Children who grow up impoverished may suffer negative physiological effects, according to new research.
The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, used brain scans from hundreds of children and found that those from poor households were impacted mentally, as reported by Deseret News. The research showed that poor children have less gray matter in an area of the brain associated with learning, compared to kids from wealthier households. Gray matter is a major component of the central nervous system and a tissue responsible for processing information.
“It was really when we started getting down into real poverty, real abject poverty, that we started seeing a difference,” Seth Pollak, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-author of the JAMA study, told Bloomberg.
The study found that children in households with an annual income below $24,000 for a family of four had 7 to 10 percent less gray matter volume than what is considered standard for healthy development.
Pollak says these differences in gray matter can be linked to varying amounts and quality of stimulation.
Poor children “are getting too little of things we need to develop the brain and too much of things that inhibit brain growth,” he said. These children may not be getting adequate stimulation from parents or access to learning tools like books or games. Pollak notes poor nutrition may be another factor.
The new findings have experts rethinking how poverty is portrayed. Pollak says it’s not only a social condition, it’s a medical problem too.
“We like to believe in the United States that education is an equalizer, that everyone has a fair shot,” he told Bloomberg. “This is sort of suggesting that we have some people entering kindergarten not getting a fair shot.”
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