Study: Poor Children May Have Smaller Brains Than Wealthy Children

(FOX 11) A new study suggests children from poor families have smaller brains than those who belong to a more affluent family.

The research, published in February by Nature Neuroscience, indicates that socioeconomic status is associated with cognitive ability and brain development in children and teens.

In the largest study to date, researchers worked with a team of neuroscientists across the country to record the brain images of 1,099 children and young adults between the ages 3 to 20.

Neuroscientists found the brains of children from families earning less than $25,000 a year had 6 percent less surface area of the cerebral cortex than children whose families earned $150,000 or more, the Washington Post reports.

The study measured surface area of the cerebral cortices, which controls the sophisticated cognitive functions such as language, reading, decision-making and spatial skills.

"The brain is incredibly plastic, incredibly able to be molded by experience, especially in childhood. These changes are not immutable," Kimberly Noble of Columbia University, who led the study, told The Washington Post. "We see that children's brain structure varies with parents' educational attainment and income."

So why do poor children have smaller brains? Researchers have a couple theories.

One reason could be that poor families don't always have access to things that help with a healthy development, such as good nutrition and higher quality health care.

Another theory is that lower-income families tend to live "more chaotic lives, and that stress could be inhibiting brain development in children."

Click here to read Nature Neuroscience's full study.

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