Washington, July 21: Children living in poverty may face long-lasting negative consequences on brain development as also on emotional health and academic achievement, says a study.
"Our research has shown that the effects of poverty on the developing brain, particularly in the hippocampus, are strongly influenced by parenting and life stresses experienced by the children," said Joan L. Luby, child psychiatrist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
The team has identified changes in the brain's architecture that can lead to lifelong problems with epression, learning difficulties and limitations in the ability to cope with stress.
The study provides even more compelling evidence that growing up in poverty has detrimental effects on the brain. Teaching nurturing skills to parents -- particularly those who live below the poverty line -- may provide a lifetime of benefit for children.
"Early childhood interventions to support a nurturing environment for these children must now become our top public health priority for the good of all," said Luby in JAMA Paediatrics.
Low-income children had irregular brain development and lower standardised test scores, with as much as an estimated 20 percent gap in achievement explained by developmental lags in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.
"In developmental science and medicine, it is not often that the cause and solution of a public health problem become so clearly elucidated," Luby said.
"We have a rare roadmap to preserving and supporting our society's most important legacy, the developing brain. This unassailable body of evidence taken as a whole is now actionable for public policy," Luby added.