According to a recent study, child neglect is linked to changes in the white matter of the child’s brain.
The study involved 26 abandoned Romanian children living in institutions and who experienced emotional, social, language and mental development neglect.
The researchers compared the 26 abandoned children with 23 children who lived in high quality care centers and 20 children who live with their families.
The researchers said the children were between the ages of 30 months, 42 months, 54 months, 8 years and 12 years.
The experts used diffusion tensor imaging to analyze the changes in the brain’s white matter and considered developmental assessments for monitoring the optimal development of the children.
The study revealed that the brain white matter of the children who had been neglected early in life was modified.
Johanna Bick, from the Boston Children’s Hospital, wrote that the new study shows a significant association between neglect experienced in early life and modifications in the white matter of the child’s brain. Professor Bick added that the structural integrity of the white matter is changed due to serious neglect in very young children.
The study also revealed that the neglected children had serious structural alterations in the white matter, including certain areas of the limbic circuitry, changes in the sensory processing regions and changes in the corpus callosum.
The researchers explained that the white matter of the brain is mostly made up of nerves and it plays a very crucial role because it connects the brain regions and maintains the networks that are important for cognition.
Previous studies have shown that children who were raised in institutional environments have a limited access to language and cognitive stimulation, which is crucial for the child’s psychological development.
The study suggests that even if a child who risked a poor psychological development due to neglect at an early age, can still be helped by being placed in a new care-giving environment and cared for. This could prevent the white matter from changing or can even help it heal if it had been modified.
The researchers said further studies are needed to provide a better understanding on the link between child neglect and changes in the brain’s white matter.
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