Poverty linked to childhood depression - February 2016

Many negative consequences are linked to growing up poor, and researchers have identified one more: altered brain connectivity.

Researchers at Washington University, St Louis, found that key structures in the brain are connected differently in poor children than in kids raised in more affluent settings. In particular, the brain's hippocampus -- a structure key to learning, memory and regulation of stress -- and the amygdala -- which is linked to stress and emotion -- connect to other areas of the brain differently in poor children than in kids whose families had higher incomes.

"In this study, we found that the way those structures connect with the rest of the brain changes in ways we would consider to be less helpful in regulating emotion and stress." Said Deanna M. Barch, PhD. "Poverty is one of the most powerful predictors of poor developmental outcomes for children," said co-investigator Joan L. Luby, MD.

Researchers hypothesize that factors such as stress, adverse environmental exposures -- including lead, cigarette smoke and poor nutrition -- along with limited educational opportunities, can contribute to problems later in life. Barch emphasized "Poverty doesn't put a child on a predetermined trajectory, but it behooves us to remember that adverse experiences early in life are influencing the development and function of the brain. - Good Health Care

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