Lourdes Mary Daniel
KK Womens and Childrens Hospital, Singapore
Posters & Accepted Abstracts: J Neurol Neurophysiol
Children in poverty have poorer cognitive, socio-behavioral and health outcomes than their more affluent peers. Poverty affects the brain in 4 main ways: language and reading, memory, executive functioning and socio-emotional processing. Numerous studies demonstrate differences in brain structure and function between children from high and low socio-economic status. Income and total hippocampal gray matter which is important for learning and memory have been shown to be correlated, as well as frontal and prefrontal regions which affect emotion and stress. Poor cognitive and academic performance among children in poverty have been shown to be mediated by a small hippocampus and frontal and temporal lobes, with the decrease in the latter areas explaining as much as 15-20% of the achievement deficits. The relationship between poverty and the brain is not linear but logarithmic. Income related most strongly to brain structure among the most disadvantaged children. The effect is seen as early as 6-9 months of age. Childrenā????s executive function (EF) skills have been shown to be robustly predicted by chronic exposure to poverty and to the environmental hazards associated with poverty. EF skills are core capabilities that are important in adults for managing life, work and effective parenting. Bridging the achievement gap between children of low socio-economic status and their more affluent peers requires coordinated public policy measures. This is a huge challenge but is necessary to protect these children from the long term effects of poverty. The talk will also summarise the effects of various intervention programs.
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