Brain scans show effect of poverty, stress on black children

ISLAMABAD (Online): Childhood stress can change the brain negatively, according to a new study that says Black children are affected more because they experience more poverty and adversity.

“The researchers analyzed MRI scans to identify small differences in the volume of certain brain structures, and said these could accumulate as children age and play a role in the later development of mental health problems,” . “The finding, part of an emerging research field looking at how racism and other social factors may affect the physical architecture of the brain, may help explain longstanding racial disparities in the prevalence of psychiatric disorders such as PTSD.”


Brain development is affected by “disparities faced by certain groups of people,” even among children as young as 9 years old, said Nathaniel Harnett, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the study’s senior author. “If we’re going to treat the world as colorblind, we’re not going to create mental health solutions that are effective for all people.”

The study used evidence from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, which the National Institutes of Health established in 2015 to study the brains and experiences of thousands of American children through early adulthood.

Brain scans revealed that Black children had less gray matter in 11 of 14 brain areas that were examined. Disparities in eight of the 14 brain areas were affected by childhood adversity, particularly poverty.