This story is from the category The Brain
Date posted: 23/07/2012
evere psychological and physical neglect produces measurable changes in children's brains, finds a study led by Boston Children's Hospital. But the study also suggests that positive interventions can partially reverse these changes.
Researchers led by Margaret Sheridan, PhD, and Charles Nelson, PhD, of the Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children's Hospital, analyzed brain MRI scans from Romanian children in the ongoing Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP), which has transferred some children reared in orphanages into quality foster care homes.
Their findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Early Edition, online the week of July 23), add to earlier studies by Nelson and colleagues showing cognitive impairment in institutionalized children, but also showing improvements when children are placed in good foster homes.
"Increasingly we are finding evidence that exposure to childhood adversity has a negative effect on brain development," says Sheridan. "The implications are wide ranging, not just for institutionalized children but also for children exposed to abuse, abandonment, violence during war, extreme poverty and other adversities."
Sheridan, Nelson and colleagues compared three groups of 8- to 11-year old children: 29 who had been reared in an institution, 25 who were selected at random to leave the institution for a high-quality foster care placement and 20 typically developing children who were never in an institution. The children in the middle group had been in foster care for 6 to 9 years.
On MRI, children with histories of any institutional rearing had significantly smaller gray matter volumes in the cortex of the brain than never-institutionalized children, even if they had been placed in foster care.
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