Research Roundup: How adult friendship, socioeconomic status, and screen time may affect developing brains

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New longitudinal study investigates how socioeconomic status shapes the developing brain

The relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and brain anatomy is mostly stable from childhood to early adulthood, according to a longitudinal neuroimaging study of more than 600 people, Science Daily reports.

A research team from the National Institute of Mental Health conducted the 20-year study to learn more about how a person’s socioeconomic status relates to the way the structure of their brain develops.

The team found that childhood SES was related to the size and complexity of adult brain regions — specifically the thalamus and the striatum — which are associated with cognitive functions like language, learning, and emotions.

“Early brain development occurs within the context of each child’s experiences and environment, which both vary significantly as a function of socioeconomic status,” lead author Cassidy McDermott told MSN.com.

The study suggests that early childhood is a critical time to support healthy brain development and that “interventions designed to mitigate the influence of low SES on brain and mental health may be most beneficial for children younger than age five.”

Read a summary article in Science Daily or access the study in JNeurosci.


Early results released from Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study

Early results from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study indicate that heavy screen time could have negative implications for children’s development.

Researchers analyzed 4,500 brain scans of 9- and 10-year-old children and discovered that some who use screens frequently had premature thinning of the brain cortex, an area that interprets information from the physical world.

The ABCD study is slated to be the country’s largest study of child brain development and health ever undertaken, and researchers caution against misinterpreting the significance of this early information.

“We don’t know if it’s being caused by the screen time. It won’t be until we follow them over time that we will see if there are outcomes that are associated with the differences that we’re seeing in this single snapshot,” Dr. Gaya Dowling, who is directing the study at the National Institutes of Health, told Tech Times.

Read about this study in the New York Times or learn more at ABCDstudy.org.


Moms’ social networks may influence their children’s cognitive development

A new study examined more than 1,000 mother-child pairs to learn about how caregivers’ social connections influence early childhood development. The researchers found that children born to women with larger social networks scored higher on cognitive tests.

“Outside the family context, mothers with larger social networks may be able to draw on resources from those networks that alleviate some of the burdens associated with parenting,” study co-author Kaja LeWinn, a researcher at the University of California San Francisco told Reuters.

The study suggests that women who have good friends and more social support may have an easier time managing parenthood, said Dr. Mary Lauren Neel, a researcher at the Ohio State University.

“What’s exciting about this study is that it suggests that a child’s development could potentially be changed by enhancing a mother’s social networks of connection,” Neel said. “You might not be able to change where you live or how much money you make, but you might be able to expand your social network.”

Read the original article in Reuters or find the study itself at JAMA Network.

LENA Team

The LENA Team is a dedicated group of professionals who are passionate about increasing awareness of the importance of early interactive talk. We are statisticians, speech-language pathologists, curriculum specialists, engineers and linguists.

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