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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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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