According to a new research published online Jan 26 in JAMA Paediatrics, childhood neglect is associated with changes in the brain’s white matter.
Twenty six abandoned children in Romania who experienced social, emotional, language and mental development neglect while living in institutions were observed by the researchers. 23 children who were placed in high quality care and 20 children who grew up with their own families were compared with these abandoned children. The researchers also assessed the children when they were 30 months, 42 months, 54 months, 8 years and 12 years of age.
They also made use of diffusion tensor imaging to analyze abnormalities in the white matter of the brain, and considered developmental assessments to monitor their optimal development.
A significant association between neglect early in life and changes in white matter was observed. “Results from this study contribute to growing evidence that severe neglect in early life affects the structural integrity of white matter throughout the brain,” Johanna Bick, Ph.D., of Boston Children’s Hospital, and colleagues write.
They also found that when compared to children who had been in institutional care, these children had prominent structural alterations in their brain’s white matter including certain parts of the limbic circuitry, sensory processing areas and the corpus callosum.
The researchers hope that further studies would help them get a better understanding about the association between changes in white matter and child neglect, and how this all sums up to affect psychiatric functioning.