8 thoughts on “Child hunger rising in the USA

  1. Poverty may reduce kids’ brain function

    Dec. 6, 2008
    Courtesy University of California, Berkeley
    and World Science staff

    In alarm­ing re­search re­sults that they de­scribe as a “wake-up call,” psy­chol­o­gists have found poorer chil­dren tend to suf­fer from re­duced brain ac­ti­vity.

    “The stress­ful and rel­a­tively im­pov­er­ished en­vi­ron­ment as­so­ci­at­ed with low so­ci­o­ec­on­omic sta­tus” may be re­spon­si­ble, said psy­cholo­g­ist Rob­ert Knight of Uni­ver­s­ity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, one of the re­search­ers. “Fewer books, less read­ing, few­er games, few­er vis­its to mu­se­ums.”

    Knight sus­pects prop­er train­ing can elim­i­nate the dif­fer­ences. His group is work­ing with neu­ro­sci­en­tists who use games to im­prove chil­dren’s rea­son­ing abil­ity.

    As it stands, “kids from low­er so­ci­o­ec­on­omic lev­els show brain phys­i­ol­o­gy pat­terns si­m­i­lar to some­one who ac­tu­ally had dam­age in the front­al lobe [part of the brain] as an adult,” Knight con­tin­ued. “We found that kids are more likely to have a low re­sponse if they have low so­ci­o­ec­on­omic sta­tus, though not eve­ry­one who is poor has low front­al lobe re­sponse.”

    In a study ac­cept­ed for pub­lica­t­ion in the Jour­nal of Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­sci­ence, Knight and col­leagues found that nor­mal 9- and 10-year-olds dif­fer­ing only in so­ci­o­ec­on­omic sta­tus have de­tect­a­ble dif­fer­ences in the re­sponse of their prefront­al cor­tex, the part of the brain crit­i­cal for prob­lem solv­ing and cre­ati­vity.

    Brain func­tion was meas­ured by means of an elec­tro­en­ce­pha­lo­graph, a cap fit­ted with elec­trodes to meas­ure elec­tri­cal ac­ti­vity in the brain like that used to as­sess ep­i­lep­sy, sleep dis­or­ders and brain tu­mors.

    Al­though pre­vi­ous re­search had al­so sug­gested poorer chil­dren suf­fer from less brain stimula­t­ion, past stud­ies used “only in­di­rect meas­ures of brain func­tion and could not dis­en­tan­gle the ef­fects of in­tel­li­gence, lan­guage pro­fi­cien­cy and oth­er fac­tors,” said the uni­ver­s­ity’s Mark Ki­shi­yama, a mem­ber of the re­search team. “Our study is the first with di­rect meas­ure of brain ac­ti­vity where there is no is­sue of task com­plex­ity.”



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