Effects of Poverty on the Brain and Learning Martha S. Burns, PH.D. Joint Appointment Professor Northwestern University . We have known that income level negatively impacts cognitive functions for over a decade 2 There are links between family income and memory and attention
But newer research is specifying why and how the impact of poverty affects learning 4 Family income, parental education and brain structure in children and adolescents Among children from lower income families,
small differences in income were associated with relatively large differences in surface brain area Among children from higher income families, similar income increments were associated with smaller differences in surface area. Noble, et. al. Nature Neuroscience 30 March 2015 Brain structure and poverty (Noble et al, 2015)
Brain Structure and income level relationships were most prominent in regions supporting language reading, executive functions spatial skills
Noble et al 2015 Conclusion This research implies that income relates most strongly to brain structure among the most disadvantaged children. April 2015 Dr. John Gabriellis Lab at MIT
Published research that corroborates Noble 2015 and clarifies the income/achievement gap Showing that High Income versus Low Income achievement differences directly correlate to measures of cortical thickness in adolescents Neuroanatomical Correlates of the Income-Achievement Gap
Mackey, A. P., A. S. Finn, J. A. Leonard, D. S. Jacoby-Senghor, M. R. West, C. F. O. Gabrieli, and J. D. E. Gabrieli. (2015) Neuroanatomical Correlates of the Income-Achievement Gap. Psychological Science (April 20). Corroborated by Pollak et al, in June 20 percent of the gap in test scores between poor children and middle-class children may be a result of poor brain development in the
frontal and temporal lobes Pollak, S., et al. (2015) JAMA Pediatrics In October, differential effects of SES on kinds of memory (working versus procedural memory) Procedural Memory (probabilistic learning) Working Memory Leonard, J., Mackey, A., Finn, A. & Gabrielli, JE (2015) Front. Hum. Neurosci., 08 October
So SES does not affect intelligence or ability to learn in general Rather SES affects those types of learning important for academic success But, why???? A key feature is toxic stress associated with poverty 13 http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/wp3/ Effects on Brain Development
The neural circuits for dealing with stress are particularly malleable (or plastic) during the fetal and early childhood periods the regions of the brain involved in fear, anxiety, and impulsive responses may overproduce neural connections those regions dedicated to reasoning, planning, and behavioral control may produce fewer neural connections
Damage to health and well-being Extreme exposure to toxic stress changes the stress response system This wear and tear increases the risk of stress-related physical and mental illness later in life
Responds at lower thresholds to events that might not be stressful to others, Activates more frequently and for longer periods than is necessary, like revving a car engine for hours every day. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) (n =1007) [Jimenez et al, 2016) Variable %
Jimenez et al. Adverse Experiences in Early Childhood (ACES) and Kindergarten Outcomes PEDIATRICS Volume 137, number 2 , February 2016 Study Involved A Racially Balanced Population (Jimenez et al, 2016) White African American Affrican American Other Table 3 Teacher Ratings of Below Average Academic Skills percentages (Jimenez et al, 2016) 40.00% 30.00%
20.00% 10.00% 0.00% 0 1 2 3 Aces Aces Aces or more Aces Table 5.Teacher Ratings of Behavior Percentages (Jimenez et al, 2016)
25.00% 20.00% 15.00% 10.00% 5.00% 0.00% 0 1 2 3 Aces Aces Aces or More Aces
Conclusion (Jimenez et al, 2016) Children experiencing adverse childhood experiences (ACES) places students at significant risk for Poor school achievement And is associated with poor health ELL Double Jeopardy
ELL enrollment in schools more than doubled between 1997 and 2008 (National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition, 2010). Hispanic children constitute an urgent demographic imperative (Garcia and Jensen, 2009) Hispanic children, who speak Spanish as their first language (L1), make up the largest proportion of ELL students in todays schools (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010).
(a) Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing minority group in the United States; (b) disproportionately high numbers of Hispanic children live in poverty (Chau, Thampi, & Wight, 2010) (c) Hispanic children, as a group, struggle with relatively poor educational achievement Disadvantages ELL students may face Parenting challenges associated with non-conventional work hours Cognitive, language and brain effects of poverty see especially Noble, 2005
and 2015 Cognitive, language and brain effects of stress 24 ELL students often also have a high proportion of unidentified learning disabilities Standardized test scores alone cannot distinguish between learning disabilities and other factors
such as a students low level of proficiency in his or her first language, limited prior schooling, and low levels of English proficiency, which may cause an English learner student to perform below standards Solutions: Neuroscience Moving from Why to What and How
Positive experiences after infancy have been shown to compensate to some degree for the negative behavioral consequences Being exposed to an environment rich in opportunities for exploration and social play, Caring and positive relationships with adults Computer activities designed to target the skills that are impacted can turn around some effects of poverty Fast ForWord exercises, because of their specific emphasis
on language, attention and memory are particularly effective and offer a cost effective valuable solution The Role of Neuroscience Technology 28 Well designed neuroscience-based technology builds the underlying
capacities that are reduced in some children of poverty or with learning issues Executive Function + Cognitive Skills And the Brain Structures affected most by Poverty LANGUAGE AND READING AREAS ARE ACTIVATED AFTER SIX WEEKS OF FAST FORWORD TRAINING
Typically reading children Reading Impaired Children Reading Impaired Children before remediation after remediation Left anterior Angular Visual Word Gabrieli, 2009 inferior frontal Gyrus Form Area gyrus IFG AG Left Medial Temporal
Gyrus Attentional Skills are also improved after FFWD Courtney Stevens, et al. B R A I N R E S E A R C H 1 205(2008)5569 Percent of Fourth Graders Basic or Above (Initial Testers) In a large urban district with high poverty and ELL students Accelerating Growth District Wide 80 78%
2009 2004 2005 2006 2007 2010 2008 Year St. Mary Parish School District
State The Secret to Raising Smart Kids Carol S. Dweck, Scientific American, 2013 Growth Mind-Set Fixed Mind-Set Students who believe intelligence is malleable (growth mind-set) earned higher math grades in the fall of 7th grade than those who believe in static intelligence (fixed mind-set) even though the groups had equivalent math achievement test scores in the sixth grade. From Blackwell, LS et al (2007)
Implicit Theories of Intelligence Predict Achievement. LS Blackwell et al., CHILD Devel., Vol. 78, No. 1
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