How Poverty Makes Children’s Brains More Susceptible To Depression


child developmentStark and rising socioeconomic inequalities plague many countries, including the United States, and politicians, economists, and—fortunately—scientists, are debating its causes and solutions. But the effects of inequality’s may go beyond simple access to opportunity: a new study finds that socioeconomic disadvantage can actually induce permanent changes in brain connectivity that put poor children at higher risk of mental health problems, particularly depression. The findings could have important policy implications and provide new arguments for expanding anti-poverty interventions, researchers say.

For the study, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, analyzed brain scans of 105 children ages 7 to 12, finding that two key structures in the brain are connected differently in poor children than in kids raised in more affluent settings. Specifically, the brain’s hippocampus — a structure that plays a critical role in learning, memory and stress regulation — and the amygdala —…

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