Thursday, May 13, 2010

Brain Function Related to Stress Levels?


In prepping for my new adventure this fall (I'll be returning to the classroom full time) I've been doing a little research. There's a new class for juniors and seniors that I'm developing called "Communicating in the Digital Age". 

In my studies, I ran across a very interesting article published by the University of California Berkeley. Their research was centered around the connection between poverty and the development of children's brain function. We all know that kids from middle and upper class homes tend to do better in school. There are a variety of reasons for this. What we didn't really know before this study (or at least, what I didn't know before I read this study) was how malleable our kids' brains really are.

The study indicated that the prefrontal cortex (the part responsible for choosing between right and wrong, governing social control, and controlling emotional urges) of lower income students resembled the brain scans of adults who had suffered frontal lobe damage from trauma. 

The researchers say that this is likely the result of two things: 

1. The lower level of cognitive engagement (fewer books, more television, less time in conversation) in poor homes.

2. The higher level of stress. 

It's pretty astonishing to see how environment and biology work together like this. The fact that our kids brains actually change their makeup based on what we do is humbling. I guess the good news is this:

It stands to reason that if we can increase the level of thoughtful engagement (giving them choices, actually seeking to understand where they are coming from, heck - simply talking to them at the dinner table) and decrease the level of stress in our homes, that our children will reap tremendous benefits.

That's pretty cool.

1 comment:

Lindebel said...

That is very thought provoking. The problem is this though...
If you are a mom who is pregnant w/baby #4 has a 5yr old who won't listen to ANYTHING not even come here and get some icecream, a 3yr old who tells you no and talks back all the time, a 1yr old who just started walking and climbing stairs and is into everything, a handicapped father who lives with you, are trying to house train a puppy, husband is deployed and are on an emotional rollercoaster; How do you reduce the stress to make your kids into free thinkers and independent with out ripping your hair out and going insane. All while taking your family with you. In essence, with my situation do you have any advice on how to reduce the stress. (I do have the scream free parenting book already and am halfway through)