Study suggests childhood neglect can be damaging to brain development

Source: Science, September 2012

Research is mounting that childhood neglect is even more damaging than previously believed. A study of 21-day-old mice that were isolated for two weeks suggests the mice grew up to be anti-social and have memory deficits. Researchers found changes in the physical changes brains of the mice after they reached adol­­­escence, especially in the area of the brain that affects personality and cognition.

The study backs up a growing body of research that suggests neglect at an early age can have damaging and long-term consequences for children, because social stimulation is important for brain development. Children raised in orphanages or who were neglected by parents have possessed similar patterns of changes in brain regions.

In addition to developing drug therapies to help reverse the effects of neglect, researchers say society must find ways to help children at risk by addressing policies such as maternity and paternity leave, providing more resources for single parents as well as monitoring the conditions of orphanages more closely.