Severe Poverty Affects Brain Size

Image courtesy of the National Institute of Mental Health,

Image courtesy of the National Institute of Mental Health,

The Spokesman Review recently reported on a University of Wisconsin study that shows the link between growing up in extreme poverty and smaller brain size, particularly in the regions of the brain connected with academic performance.  This study contributes to the vast amount of research exploring the links between poverty, child brain development, and poor academic performance, which forms the basis of our work to prevent and mitigate Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in Eastern Washington.  According to the study, "as much as 20% of the gap in test scores [between children in poverty and more affluent children] could be explained by slower development of two parts of the brain."  

Combined with, for example, the research presented in the KSPS Documentary Born to Learn, this finding adds to our sense of urgency to address this inequity at a systems level.  

As study author Seth Pollack sums up,

Americans tend to really like to believe in this narrative that everyone here has a chance, This kind of research suggests that we have some kids entering kindergarten at totally not a level playing field – with environments that are so impoverished and under-stimulated and nonconducive to healthy growth, we’ve got little 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds starting kindergarten already at an extreme disadvantage.
— Seth Pollack, Prof. of Psychology, UW-Madison

Check out the full article from the Spokesman here, or download the PDF below.