Foster care may boost brain activity of institutionalized children

Jul 15, 2009

Children raised in institutions are more likely to lag physically, socially, and cognitively, but little is known about what happens to children's brains when they live in institutions. Now a new study finds that placing institutionalized children in high-quality foster care may improve their brain activity.

The study, in the July/August 2009 issue of the journal Child Development, was carried out as part of the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, a longitudinal look at the effects of institutionalization on brain and behavioral development. It was conducted by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Children's Hospital Boston, the University of Maryland, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, and Harvard Medical School.

The study assessed how more than 200 Romanian between the ages of 5 and 42 months recognized faces. Some of the children in the study had been raised in institutions and then placed in foster care, some stayed in institutions, and some were raised by their families.

Compared with children who grew up in families, children raised in institutions showed a pattern of reduced brain activity when they looked at pictures of a caregiver's face that alternated with pictures of a stranger's face. Children who were placed in high-quality showed the beginnings of normalized when processing faces.

"This study is one of the first to document the neural consequences of early institutionalization," according to Margaret C. Moulson, the study's lead author. "As such, it offers insights into both the negative effects of early psychological deprivation on children's ability to process faces, and the potential positive impact of early intervention." Moulson was a postdoctoral associate at MIT when she conducted the research; she will soon be assistant professor of psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto.

More information: Child Development, Vol. 80, Issue 4, The Effects of Early Experience on Face Recognition: An Event-Related Potential Study of Institutionalized Children in Romania by Moulson, MC (formerly with Massachusetts Institute of Technology, soon to be with Ryerson University), Westerlund, A (Children's Hospital Boston), Fox, NA (University of Maryland), Zeanah, CH (Tulane University Health Sciences Center), and Nelson, CA (Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School).

Source: Society for Research in (news : web)

Explore further: Face transplants change lives, identity

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Kinship care more beneficial than foster care

Jun 02, 2008

Children removed from their homes after reports of maltreatment have significantly fewer behavior problems three years after placement with relatives than if they are put into foster care, according to new research at The ...

Vulnerable children fare well with relatives

Jan 21, 2009

Placing vulnerable children with relatives is a viable option, a new study by Cochrane Researchers suggests. In view of several recent high profile child abuse cases, the study may have important policy implications.

Recommended for you

Face transplants change lives, identity

6 hours ago

Patients are prepared to take significant risks in order to be considered for a face transplant, says Dr David Koppel, director of the largest craniofacial unit in the UK and Honorary Clinical Associate Professor ...

British Lords hold ten-hour debate on assisted dying

Jul 19, 2014

Members of Britain's unelected House of Lords spent almost ten hours on Friday discussing whether to legalise assisted dying, in an often emotional debate putting the question back on the agenda, if not on the statute books.

AbbVie, Shire agree on $55B combination

Jul 18, 2014

The drugmaker AbbVie has reached a deal worth roughly $55 billion to combine with British counterpart Shire and become the latest U.S. company to seek an overseas haven from tax rates back home.

User comments : 0