Two recent and influential reports have reignited a public discussion on the physical, as well as the psychological, effects of poverty on the brain.
Researchers have discovered that children living in poverty have less gray matter in several areas of their brains involved in memory, decision making, problem solving, impulse control and other social and emotional behavior, reports Erica Hayasaki. “Working together, these brain areas are crucial for following instructions, paying attention and overall learning—some of the keys to academic success.”
Scientists have long known that differences in social class affect health and learning outcomes but neuroscience has only now, with studies like these, definitively linked environment, behavior and brain activity.
These studies, and many more like them, could lead to a dramatic overhaul of both educational and social policies, says Hayasaki, that focus more on environment, given its ability to “sculpt the areas of the brain that control behavior.”