BoingBoing has a post up that points to research on the biological impact growing up in poverty has on kids. But, as the blogpost title suggests, reversing these effects is possible through game playing: Growing up poor can impair kids’ prefrontal cortex activity — but it can be restored with games. They point to research reported in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience and report that the study concludes:

that poor children aged 9 and 10 are likely to have lowered brain activity, comparable to a stroke victim. The researchers say that it’s due to growing up in a stressful, “resource poor” environment, with “fewer books, less reading, fewer games, fewer visits to museums.” However, the effects can be remediated through playing stimulating games.

BoingBoing also provides a link to a more detailed account of the study in Science Daily titled “Poor Children’s Brain Activity Resembles That Of Stroke Victims, EEG Shows.” This article reports that researchers found:

that normal 9- and 10-year-olds differing only in socioeconomic status have detectable differences in the response of their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is critical for problem solving and creativity.

The research was conducted at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and the School of Public Health in Berkeley, CA. They provide a press release summarizing the research, titled ” EEGs show brain differences between poor and rich kids.” This quotes Institute director Robert Knight:

“This is a wake-up call,” Knight said. “It’s not just that these kids are poor and more likely to have health problems, but they might actually not be getting full brain development from the stressful and relatively impoverished environment associated with low socioeconomic status: fewer books, less reading, fewer games, fewer visits to museums.”

These differences appear to be due to social environment and increased interaction, reading, and game playing appear to reverse their effects. As Knight puts it:

“It’s not a life sentence,” Knight emphasized. “We think that with proper intervention and training, you could get improvement in both behavioral and physiological indices.”

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