How Institutional Neglect Affects Kids’ Brains

Mon Jan 26, 2015 3:28pm EST

(Reuters Health) – Kids who were raised in a Romanian institution for abandoned children have smaller heads, smaller brains, and different white matter structure than similar kids who were moved into high-quality foster care at an early age.

Even those who were moved into foster care by age two have noticeably different brains from children raised in biological families.

The findings show that the brain’s wiring “is profoundly interrupted and perturbed and changed by neglect,” said senior author Charles A. Nelson of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

“Some of these changes can be remediated by placement in enriched foster care,” he told Reuters Health by phone.

The Bucharest Early Intervention Project began in 2000 with 136 abandoned babies who had spent more than half of their lives in institutions, which was the standard at the time. At age two, researchers randomly selected half of the babies and arranged for them to be moved into high-quality foster homes.

Ever since then, the researchers have been comparing the kids to similar youngsters in biological families who were never institutionalized.

The institutions had high ratios of babies to caregivers, and children were confined to cribs, with little linguistic or sensory —> Read More Here


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