Environment and Brain Growth

A recent study published in the May 2012, Annals of Neurology supports the finding that the structure of the adult brain is associated with adverse childhood experiences. Recent studies suggest childhood socioeconomic status has long term effects on the structure and function of brain development.

Possible causes include diet, low quality parental health care, impoverished environment, under stimulating environment and prenatal exposure to toxic substances. Prior reports have shown adverse childhood experiences are associated with adult psychiatric disorders and cognitive deficits. Additional studies support the role stress plays in reducing the size of a part of the brain called the hippocampus. Chronic stress in childhood causes a decrease in hippocampal development. The hippocampus is involved in many cognitive processes including the storage and processing of memories.

The environment a child is exposed to plays a major role in long term brain development and cognitive and emotional competence.