Foster care may boost brain activity of institutionalized children

July 15, 2009,

Children raised in institutions are more likely to lag physically, socially, and cognitively, but little is known about what happens to children's brains when they live in institutions. Now a new study finds that placing institutionalized children in high-quality foster care may improve their brain activity.

The study, in the July/August 2009 issue of the journal Child Development, was carried out as part of the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, a longitudinal look at the effects of institutionalization on brain and behavioral development. It was conducted by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Children's Hospital Boston, the University of Maryland, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, and Harvard Medical School.

The study assessed how more than 200 Romanian between the ages of 5 and 42 months recognized faces. Some of the children in the study had been raised in institutions and then placed in foster care, some stayed in institutions, and some were raised by their families.

Compared with children who grew up in families, children raised in institutions showed a pattern of reduced brain activity when they looked at pictures of a caregiver's face that alternated with pictures of a stranger's face. Children who were placed in high-quality showed the beginnings of normalized when processing faces.

"This study is one of the first to document the neural consequences of early institutionalization," according to Margaret C. Moulson, the study's lead author. "As such, it offers insights into both the negative effects of early psychological deprivation on children's ability to process faces, and the potential positive impact of early intervention." Moulson was a postdoctoral associate at MIT when she conducted the research; she will soon be assistant professor of psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto.

More information: Child Development, Vol. 80, Issue 4, The Effects of Early Experience on Face Recognition: An Event-Related Potential Study of Institutionalized Children in Romania by Moulson, MC (formerly with Massachusetts Institute of Technology, soon to be with Ryerson University), Westerlund, A (Children's Hospital Boston), Fox, NA (University of Maryland), Zeanah, CH (Tulane University Health Sciences Center), and Nelson, CA (Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School).

Source: Society for Research in (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Best of Last Year—The top Medical Xpress articles of 2017

December 20, 2017
It was a good year for medical research as a team at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, found that dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain. Any exercise helps, the team found, but dancing ...

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.