News flash: poverty is bad for your brain.
Maybe this doesn’t come as a complete surprise to you. I’m sure you could come up with all sorts of reasons why poverty can reduce your intellectual capacity. What researchers have newly discovered though, is that stress affects two particular parts of the brain. It’s a brain-related answer to how poverty passes from generation to generation.
The workings of working memory
What we now know is that the working memories of children raised in poverty are smaller than those of middle-class children. Martha Farah of the University of Pennsylvania made this discovery three years ago.
You need working memory to work out solutions to problems. You can’t think very well without being able to hold bits of information long enough in the brain—and that’s essentially what working memory is. It’s critical for speaking, reading, and calculating. It’s also required for the eventual passing on of memory into permanent storage in the brain.
The havocs of poverty-induced stress
It turns out that stress—specifically, the stress of living in poverty—reduces the capacity for working memory. The long-term study, conducted by Gary Evans and Michelle Schamberg of Cornell University used 195 volunteers. The participants were all 17 years old at the time. They measured the stress the teenagers have suffered over the course of the years and found that those who spent their entire lives in poverty was able to hold an average of 8.5 items in their memory, while those from middle-class families could retain 9.4. The ones who had mixed economic and social experiences were in the middle.
The researchers made sure that it was stress alone that accounted for the difference. The mother’s age when she gave birth, her educational level, marital status, or her own levels of stress didn’t have any bearing on working memory.
Why does stress wreak havoc on working memory cialis pas cher en ligne? Scientists believe that stress:
* Changes the activities of neurotransmitters, chemical messengers in the brain;
* Suppresses the creation of new nerve cells in the brain;
* Remodels the existing brain (for the worse);
* Shrinks the volume of the parts of the brain most closely associated with working memory—the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus.
And that’s why children with stressed lives can’t study as well more privileged children. (Even aside from the fact that their home environment might not be conducive to learning.)
It’s very sad to see the effect of poverty on children. Because they aren’t quite as smart as children who are better off economically (as this study shows, that’s because of environmental reasons, not genetic), they don’t do as well at school (we haven’t even thrown other problems into the mix!), and therefore are more likely to end up poor themselves. So their own children grow up poor. And the cycle gets repeated.
Change Your Attitude for a Shift in Altitude
Offering solutions for world poverty is beyond the scope of this blog, but I can and do tell you what to do about stress in another post.
Now, if you happen to find yourself in the lower rung of the socioeconomic hierarchy, you most likely suffer from a lot of stress as a consequence of being at the bottom of the heap. (The same seems to hold true for chimps.)
Here’s one way to reduce the stress of ranking low in status: change your attitude. Don’t think of yourself as being “less than” or less “worthy” than others higher up on the socioeconomic scale. Carry yourself with pride and dignity. Whoever you are, whatever socioeconomic rung you happen to be on, remember this: You matter. You are so worthy. You deserve to be happy.
Read this blog–or anything else that can help you–for tips and suggestions. Then do whatever you can to improve your health and that of your brain.