Scientists Find Socio-Economic Difference in Brain Development
SCOTT FITZGERALD famously said in The Great Gatsby that "the rich are different from the rest of us" and now neurological scientists at the University of California (UCLA) have found that children from low socio-economic backgrounds had lower frontal cortex electrical activity in the brain than their wealthier counterparts.
The neo-cortex frontal lobes have long been associated with cognitive thinking because of its prominence in humans and almost non-existence in the lower animals
The issue of Nature~vs~ Nurture has always been a controversial issue in academic Psychology and it remains to be seen whether the difference is to do with environmental factors, such as quality of nutrition, prenatal care and levels of intellectual stimulation in the home, or whether the cause is genetic.
Let the debate continue!
Normal nine and 10-year-olds from rich and poor backgrounds had differing electrical activity in a part of the brain linked to problem solving.
The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience study was described as a "wake-up call" about the impact of deprivation.
A UK researcher said it could shed light on early brain development.
The 26 children in the study, conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, were measured using an electroencephalograph (EEG), which measured activity in the "prefrontal cortex" of the brain.
Half were from low income homes, and half from high income families.
During the test, an image the children had not been briefed to expect was flashed onto a screen, and their brain responses were measured.
Those from lower income families showed a lower prefrontal cortex response to it than those from wealthier households. We are certainly not blaming lower socioeconomic families for not talking to their kids - there are probably a zillion reasons why that happens
Prof Thomas Boyce
University of California Berkeley
Dr Mark Kishiyama, one of the researchers, said: "The low socioeconomic kids were not detecting or processing the visual stimuli as well - they were not getting that extra boost from the prefrontal cortex."
Since the children were, in health terms, normal in every way, the researchers suspected that "stressful environments" created by low socioeconomic status might be to blame.
Previous studies have suggested that children in low-income families are spoken to far less - on average hearing 30 million fewer words by the age of four.
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Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States