Poverty’s Profound Impact on Brain Development and Behavior

Summary: A new review links low socioeconomic status (SES) to significant changes in brain development, behavior and cognitive outcomes. The review synthesizes existing research to present a unified framework showing how factors common in low-SES environments, such as poor diet, chronic stress, and substandard living conditions, negatively affect neurodevelopment.

This disruption can lead to decreased language skills, lower educational attainment, and a higher risk of psychiatric disorders. By describing how these conditions perpetuate generational poverty, the study highlights the urgency of developing targeted interventions to break this cycle.


  1. Low SES contributes to chronic stress and poor environmental conditions, which can inhibit neurogenesis and negatively impact cognitive development from an early age.
  2. The review provides a framework linking economic and social conditions to lifelong impacts on mental health, educational achievement, and behavior.
  3. This suggests the need for more research into specific interventions that may mitigate the effects of low SES on brain development and help break the cycle of generational poverty.

Source: De Gruyter

What determines mental health, academic performance and even cognitive development?

A new magazine from De Gruyter Neuroscience journals suggests that poverty and low socio-economic status (SES) are key contributing factors.

Other studies have examined the isolated effects of poverty on the brain or behavior. However, this new review provides the first unified framework that uses evidence from the literature to directly link brain changes resulting from low SES to behavioral, pathological, and developmental consequences.

So how can poverty and low socioeconomic status change the brain? Credit: Neuroscience News

SES refers to the social status of an individual or family and involves factors such as wealth, occupation, education level and living conditions. As well as affecting everyday life, SES can, perhaps surprisingly, also have far-reaching consequences for our brains, which begin in childhood and persist into adulthood.

So how can poverty and low socioeconomic status change the brain? The study examines the negative effects of poor diet, chronic stress and environmental risks (such as pollution and inadequate housing conditions), which are more likely to affect lower SES families.

These factors can harm children’s brain development, which in turn can influence their language skills, educational attainment, and risk of psychiatric illness.

For example, low SES families are more likely to experience increased levels of stress, which can affect their children from a young age. Sustained stress can reduce levels of neurogenesis – the growth of new neurons – in the hippocampus, which can impair learning abilities and negatively affect educational attainment and career opportunities later in life.

The unified framework proposed by the researchers also helps explain generational poverty, which can leave children in SES families unable to escape their circumstances when they grow up and become parents themselves. This vicious cycle can be difficult to break.

Interestingly, the researchers provide a long list of proposed studies that could test the validity of their framework and find new ways to break the cycle of generational poverty. This includes focusing on the effects of low SES in specific regions of the brain and identifying techniques to improve the academic performance of affected children.

This review comes at a time when inequalities in society are widening. Identifying the specific mechanisms driving generational poverty could help researchers and policymakers develop new early interventions.

The new framework takes into account the multifactorial nature of generational poverty and could pave the way for more holistic and sophisticated societal interventions that recognize this complexity.

“This research highlights the profound ways in which poverty and SES affect not only individuals’ current living conditions, but also their cognitive development, mental health and future opportunities,” said Dr Eid Abo Hamza of the ‘University of Al Ain at the University of Al Ain. United Arab Emirates, first author of the journal.

“By understanding these relationships, society can better tackle inequality and support those in disadvantaged situations, which could lead to interventions that can help break the cycle of poverty.” »

About this research news on poverty and neurodevelopment

Author: Mauricio Quinones
Source: De Gruyter
Contact: Mauricio Quiñones – De Gruyter
Picture: Image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original research: Free access.
“The impact of poverty and socioeconomic status on the brain, behavior and development: a unified framework” by Eid Abo Hamza et al. Neuroscience journals


The impact of poverty and socioeconomic status on the brain, behavior and development: a unified framework

In this article, we provide for the first time a comprehensive overview and unified framework of the impact of poverty and low socioeconomic status (SES) on the brain and behavior.

Although there are numerous studies on the impact of low SES on the brain (including the cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, and even neurotransmitters) and behaviors (including educational attainment, language development, the development of psychopathological disorders), previous studies have not integrated behavioral and educational studies. , and neural outcomes in a single setting.

We argue here that the impact of poverty and low SES on the brain and behavior are interrelated. Specifically, based on previous studies, due to a lack of resources, poverty and low SES are associated with poor nutrition, high levels of stress among caregivers and their children, and exposure to socio-environmental risks.

These psychological and physical injuries impact the normal development of several brain areas and neurotransmitters.

Impaired functioning of the amygdala can lead to the development of psychopathological disorders, while impaired functions of the hippocampus and cortex are associated with delayed learning and language development as well as poor outcomes. schools.

This in turn perpetuates child poverty, leading to a vicious cycle of poverty and psychological/physical impairment. In addition to providing economic assistance to economically disadvantaged families, interventions should aim to address neural abnormalities caused by poverty and low SES in early childhood.

Importantly, recognizing brain abnormalities due to poverty in early childhood can help increase economic equity. In the current review, we provide a comprehensive list of future studies to help understand the impact of poverty on the brain.

News Source :
Gn Health

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