Brain Health

Stress and Poverty Alters Brain Function

Do you know someone who grew up in a broken household or in poor conditions? If you’ve been on their backs lately, maybe it’s time to give them a break. Recent research states that they might be dealing with emotional problems like how well they regulate their emotions, and also elaborates on why.

In a surprising study from researchers of the University of Illinois, it was proven that stress and poverty experienced in childhood could negatively impact emotion regulation in adulthood.

Our research findings propose the idea that the stress from growing up poor may have a direct link towards your brain functionality as an adult.

The experiment conducted consisted of 49 people, with around half coming from families with low-income. The participants to the study were involved and noted since they were 9 years old, and checked with again when they were 24. The researchers also took note of the relationships in families, how stress was handled in the family, and exposure to stress.

When they had the 24-year-olds come in, they were shown a series of negatively-stimulating pictures, while brain imaging allowed the researchers to peak into how the different parts of their brains responded.

It was found that those who came from low-income families had higher activity in the part of their brain that was associated with fear and negative emotions, the higher amygdala. On the other hand, those who came from well-off families had higher activity in parts associated with negative emotion regulation, the lower prefrontal cortex.

Furthermore, the more stress participants showed when growing up, the more applicable, and the greater the effect of the relationship between brain activity and childhood poverty. If the previous sentence didn’t make sense, it means that if you were under stress as a kid, and were in a low-income family, you would have harder time regulating emotions. However, if you didn’t have much stress growing up, a low-income family would affect emotion regulation on a lesser scale.

You might ask what is the purpose of this confusing article, and how does it relate to you? Well, this research is especially important, since a survey from Reuters in 2012 stated that one in five children in the world live in poverty. In addition, another 2008 study showed that wealthier kids were generally better at handling their emotions. It’s a sad, but apparently true, that even the financially worse-off may have greater emotional problems.

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