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Research Suggests Poverty Can Diminish Brain Function

Research Suggests Poverty Can Diminish Brain FunctionAccording to research done by psychologists, children from poorer households are more likely to have reduced brain activity. Analysts have said it is a “wake-up call” and I certainly agree. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening in some countries, with even more families falling below the poverty line.

A researcher involved in the study, psy­cholo­g­ist Rob­ert Knight, attached to the University of California, Berkeley, said, “The stress­ful and rel­a­tively im­pov­er­ished en­vi­ron­ment as­so­ci­at­ed with low so­ci­o­ec­on­omic sta­tus” may be the cause. “Fewer books, less read­ing, few­er games, few­er vis­its to museums,” he added.

He feels that with proper training, this situation can be overcome. At this time, Dr. Knight and his team are working with neu­ro­sci­en­tists who are trying to develop the reasoning skills of children through the use of games. He said further, “…kids from low­er so­ci­o­ec­on­omic lev­els show brain phys­i­ol­o­gy pat­terns si­m­i­lar to some­one who ac­tu­ally had dam­age in the front­al lobe as an adult. 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”

The brain function was gauged with an elec­tro­en­ce­pha­lo­graph, where a cap with electrodes is fitted on the head. The study will be published in the Jour­nal of Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­sci­ence. Earlier studies have also proposed a link between economic circumstances and the ability to learn. Granted, this is something most of us know instinctively, but it is good to have scientific evidence to back us up.

Clearly this does not bode well for the underdeveloped and developing nations of the world. However this is an issue for first world countries as well, especially given the current economic climate and the job losses that are taking place worldwide. It is hoped that this study will lead to action of some sort and not just end up being just another often quoted reference.

Perhaps this will help us all to get involved where we can. There are various worldwide charities such as the Red Cross that could use our help, even in the form of small donations. I am thankful that larger countries are usually inclined to offer aid to poorer nations. The worldwide effort to help parts of Africa facing famine is still pretty fresh in my mind. As we enter the holiday season, this is a stark reminder that we all need to do what we can, no matter how small the gift.


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