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Large study to study impact on early brain development of financial assistance to low-income mothers

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Does grow­ing up poor harm brain devel­op­ment? (The Econ­o­mist):

Plen­ty of evi­dence sug­gests that grow­ing up poor, liv­ing through these kinds of scrapes, has a detri­men­tal impact on child devel­op­ment. Chil­dren from rich fam­i­lies tend to have bet­ter lan­guage and mem­o­ry skills than those from poor fam­i­lies. More afflu­ent chil­dren usu­al­ly per­form bet­ter in school, and are less like­ly to end up in jail. Grow­ing up poor risks the devel­op­ment of a small­er cere­bral cor­tex. But these are asso­ci­a­tions between pover­ty and devel­op­ment, not evi­dence that pover­ty caus­es these bad out­comes, says Kim­ber­ly Noble, a neu­ro­sci­en­tist at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty in New York. She is part of a team of researchers run­ning a three-year exper­i­ment which will, for the first time, search for causal links between parental income lev­el and a child’s ear­ly devel­op­ment.

The team will start recruit­ing the first of 1,000 low-income moth­ers next week. They will be invit­ed to join the study, which is called Baby’s First Years, short­ly after giv­ing birth at one of ten hos­pi­tals in four cities across the Unit­ed States…Of that 1,000, rough­ly half will be ran­dom­ly select­ed to receive an uncon­di­tion­al $333 a month, while the oth­ers will form a con­trol group that will receive $20. The mon­ey, which is com­plete­ly uncon­di­tion­al, will be loaded onto a pre-paid deb­it card every month for 40 months, on the date of the child’s birth­day. The hypoth­e­sis is that this steady stream of pay­ments will make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence in the cog­ni­tive and emo­tion­al devel­op­ment of the chil­dren whose moth­ers receive it…The inter­views will also mea­sure moth­ers’ stress, men­tal health and employ­ment pat­terns.”

Recent related study:

Socioe­co­nom­ic Sta­tus, Amyg­dala Vol­ume, and Inter­nal­iz­ing Symp­toms in Chil­dren and Ado­les­cents (Jour­nal of Clin­i­cal Child & Ado­les­cent Psy­chol­o­gy)

  • Abstract: The asso­ci­a­tions among socioe­co­nom­ic dis­ad­van­tage, amyg­dala vol­ume, and inter­nal­iz­ing symp­toms in chil­dren and ado­les­cents are unclear and under­stud­ied in the extant lit­er­a­ture. In this study, we exam­ined asso­ci­a­tions between socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus (SES) and amyg­dala vol­ume by age across child­hood and ado­les­cence to test whether socioe­co­nom­ic dis­ad­van­tage would be asso­ci­at­ed with larg­er amyg­dala vol­ume at younger ages but with small­er amyg­dala vol­ume at old­er ages. We then exam­ined whether SES and amyg­dala vol­ume were asso­ci­at­ed with children’s lev­els of anx­i­ety and depres­sion. Par­tic­i­pants were 3- to 21-year-olds from the Pedi­atric Imag­ing, Neu­rocog­ni­tion, and Genet­ics study (N = 1,196), which includ­ed struc­tur­al mag­net­ic res­o­nance imag­ing. A sub­sam­ple (n = 327; 7–21 years of age) com­plet­ed self-report mea­sures of anx­i­ety and depres­sion. Low­er fam­i­ly income and parental edu­ca­tion were sig­nif­i­cant­ly asso­ci­at­ed with small­er amyg­dala vol­ume in ado­les­cence (13–21 years) but not sig­nif­i­cant­ly asso­ci­at­ed with amyg­dala vol­ume at younger ages (3–12 years). Low­er parental edu­ca­tion, but not fam­i­ly income, was sig­nif­i­cant­ly asso­ci­at­ed with high­er lev­els of anx­i­ety and depres­sion, even after account­ing for fam­i­ly his­to­ry of anxiety/depression. Small­er amyg­dala vol­ume was sig­nif­i­cant­ly asso­ci­at­ed with high­er lev­els of depres­sion, even after account­ing for parental edu­ca­tion and fam­i­ly his­to­ry of anxiety/depression. These find­ings sug­gest that asso­ci­a­tions between SES and amyg­dala struc­ture may vary by age. In addi­tion, small­er amyg­dala vol­ume may be linked with an increased risk for depres­sion in chil­dren and ado­les­cents.

The new study in context:

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning

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