Andy’s Quick Hits (208): Poverty shrinks babies’ brains

Andy Hab
2 min readApr 22, 2022

A couple of studies have just been released which look at the brains of newborns and young babies. The results are worrying for any society.

Brain scans of newborn babies from mothers in poverty showed lower brain volumes across all regions of the brain suggesting less maturity, but also, just as worryingly, that the folds in the brain were fewer and shallower also suggesting a less developed brain and potential functional impairment. This is in comparison to babies born to mothers with higher household incomes.

This is another one to show how poverty can have dramatic consequences and damage society, which can then be perpetuated.

A second paper from the same dataset of 399 mothers showed that the brain of newborns with mothers from areas with high crime rates showed weaker connectivity across multiple regions in the brain in the first few weeks of life.

This shows that poverty and exposure to crime and its stresses can have dramatic impacts on the brains of babies — how long this lasts is not clear but it is obviously a bad start to life for an innocent baby.

Public policies that effect this critical period of life — pregnancy — is therefore a very good idea for society!

Regina L. Triplett, Rachel E. Lean, Amisha Parikh, et al.
Association of Prenatal Exposure to Early-Life Adversity With Neonatal Brain Volumes at Birth.
JAMA Network Open, 2022; 5 (4): e227045
DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.7045

Rebecca G. Brady, Cynthia E. Rogers, Trinidi Prochaska, et al.
The Effects of Prenatal Exposure to Neighborhood Crime on Neonatal Functional Connectivity.
Biological Psychiatry, 2022
DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2022.01.020

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Andy Hab

Sharing fascinating, fun, and important knowledge on the brain and human behaviour - most days. And masters track athlete - still going strong!