Studies by health authorities have shown that children from low-income families are more likely to be less healthy than kids from well-to-do families.

Now, a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkley, shows that poor kids may also be intellectually disadvantaged compared to their rich counterparts.

Researchers at Berkeley’s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and the School of Public Health found that, “…normal 9- and 10-year-olds differing only in socioeconomic status have detectable differences in the response of their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is critical for problem solving and creativity.”

Brain wave activity in test subjects was measured with a multi-probe electro encapalograph, similar to that used to disgnose epilepsy, sleep disorders and brain tumours.

Robert Knight, Director of the Institute, said, “Kids from lower socioeconomic levels show brain physiology patterns similar to someone who actually had damage in the frontal lobe as an adult. We found that kids are more likely to have a low response if they have low socioeconomic status, though not everyone who is poor has low frontal lobe response.”

Knight suggests that poor kids may be suffering less optimal brain development than their richer peers as a result of the stress and cultural impovrishment of their environment. In plain therms: They have fewer books and, so, read less. They have fewer brain-challenging games available to them and they have fewer stimulating opportunities, such as visits to museums.

On the bright side, Knight and his colleagues believe that underprivileged kids’ brain development can be improved with the proper training. The study team is working on developing brain-exercising games designed to improve the reasoning ability of elementary school-aged children.

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