Monday, January 12, 2009
Lift Kids Out of Poverty, Protect Their Brains
Growing up in poverty can physically harm a child's brain development, suggests a new study co-conducted by a University of British Columbia researcher.
Add that to a growing stack of findings that child advocates are using to argue the B.C. government needs to do more to tackle child poverty in a province that trails the rest of Canada in that category.
UBC pediatrician Tom Boyce worked with colleagues at the University of California and Stanford to measure how differences in a child's family socioeconomic status determine differences in neurological functioning in the pre-frontal cortex -- the part of the brain associated with executive functions and reasoning.
Their resulting study, to be published in MIT's Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, found that poorer children's pre-frontal cortexes were more likely to exhibit signs of damage or "altered" functioning identified with shortened attention spans and other learning problems.
Child and youth advocates say the new research is consistent with other studies finding that poverty sickens kids and impairs their development.
A study recently released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information reveals that low income Canadians are at elevated risk for mental health hospitalization, diabetes and childhood asthma.