Child neglect shrinks brain: Study
An early life full of neglect, deprivation and adversity leads to people growing up with smaller brains, a study suggests. The researchers at King's College London were following adopted children who spent time in "hellhole" Romanian orphanages.
They grew up with brains 8.6% smaller than other adoptees. The researchers said it was the "most compelling" evidence of the impact on the adult brain. The appalling care at the orphanages came to light after the fall of Romania's communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, reports BBC.
The children were physically and psychologically deprived with little social contact, no toys and often ravaged by disease. The children studied had spent between two weeks and nearly four years in such institutions.Previous studies on children who were later adopted by loving families in the UK showed they were still experiencing mental health problems in adulthood.
Higher levels of traits including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a lack of fear of strangers (disinhibited social engagement disorder) have all been documented. The latest study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to scan the brains for answers.
There were 67 Romanian adoptees in the study and their brains were compared to 21 adoptees who did not suffer early life deprivation. First the total brain volume - the size of the brain - was 8.6% smaller in the Romanian adoptees on average. And the longer they spent in the Romanian orphanages, the greater the reduction in brain size.