Poverty and the Developing Brain: Insights from Neuroimaging

Sheeva Azma

Synesis: A Journal of Science, Technology, Ethics, and Policy 2013; 4: G40-46

Poverty is a significant social problem, affecting how individuals live and the resources available to them. For children, poverty represents a chronically suboptimal developmental environment as much as it reflects a state of economic stress. Neuroimaging techniques permit the non-invasive investigation of human brain development in adverse conditions such as poverty. Brain imaging has contributed to the understanding of economic disparity by identifying changes in the brain’s structure and function associated with poverty. Noninvasive imaging of the developing human brain enables the testing of hypotheses about links between economic disadvantage and neural development. Due to the plasticity of neural pathways, some of the effects of poverty on the brain may be reversible. Empirical research investigating the neural correlates of income disparity will continue to enable the design of targeted interventions to prevent and ameliorate the effects of childhood poverty.


Keywords: poverty, brain, neuroimaging, health, functional magnetic resonance imaging