A new study has revealed that children from lower income backgrounds have weaker brain activity and are more likely to be distracted. The team of researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) conducted the study in Uttar Pradesh, the most populated state of India.
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John Spencer, the lead researcher from the university’s School of Psychology, said every year 250 million children in low and middle income countries fail to reach their developmental potential. Spencer said there is a growing need to understand the global impact of poverty on early brain and behavioural development.
The researcher explained that previous work had shown poverty and early adversities significantly impact brain development of the children. This contributed to a vicious cycle of poverty.
Spencer said “We wanted to find out more about the functional brain development of children born into poorer backgrounds to see why many do not reach their full potential.”
The researchers used a portable ‘functional near infrared spectroscopy’ (fNIRS) device to measure the brain activity of 42 children aged between four months and four years in rural settings. They investigated the children’s ‘visual working memory’ (how well they are able to store visual information and detect changes in the visual environment when they occur). The results were then compared with children from families in Midwest America.
They concluded that children in India from families with low maternal education and income showed weaker brain activity and poorer distractor suppression in the left frontal cortex area of the brain that is involved in working memory.