Study shows connection between wealth, brain development - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Study shows connection between wealth, brain development

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The old adage is that money can't buy happiness. Results of a new study suggest it can lead to more intelligent children.

A pair of UH professors at the John A. Burns School of Medicine took part in the national study which found that brain development and cognitive abilities in children tested were directly correlated to the income of their parents.

"Families with lower income have kind of a slower brain development, the brain surface area was smaller" said Dr. Linda Chang, who along with Dr. Thomas Ernst, oversaw the research in Hawaii.

Her assessment is a super summary of an incredibly complex study, one that cost 9 million dollars, took two years to conduct, involved nearly 1500 children ages 3-20, at some of the nation's most prestigious universities.

The subjects not only had brain scans performed, but were also subject to a wide variety of cognitive tests.

"We measured their vocabulary, their memory, their attention and so forth" said Chang.

256 of the participants came from Hawaii. The results were dramatic. Children from families with a total income of less than 50,000 dollars per year had poorer cognitive performance and brain development than wealthier counterparts. The study also revealed, that in this instance: every dollar counts.

"Even a small change in the income could make a big difference in the brain development of young children" Chang noted. And not just young children. Test subjects at the older end of the age spectrum---and beyond---still have brains that aren't fully developed.

"The brain is certainly still developing into your 30's and 40's even, some parts" she said.

The study didn't try to solve why these differences happen, only that they do in fact exist. The assumptions that wealth provides access to better education, nutrition, stimulation and subsequently better opportunities, are now strongly supported.

"It provides strong evidence that income does have something to do with a child's brain development" Chang said.

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