The research published in the journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that childhood poverty and chronic stressors such as substandard housing, crowding, noise, and social stressors like family turmoil, violence or family separation determined the relationship between childhood poverty and prefrontal brain function during emotional regulation.
“Our findings suggest that the stress-burden of growing up poor may be an underlying mechanism that accounts for the relationship between poverty as a child and how well your brain works as an adult,” said Dr. K. Luan Phan, professor of psychiatry at University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine and senior author of the study.
The study found that out of the subjects examined children who had lower family incomes at age 9 showed greater activity in certain brain regions. The amygdala an area in the brain known for its for role in regulating emotion including fear revealed greater activity,whereas the prefrontal cortex showed less activity. The prefrontal cortex is involved in regulating negative emotion.
Phan said it is well known that the negative effects of poverty and other childhood stressors can set up “a cascade of increasing risk factors” for children to develop physical and psychological problems as an adult.
P. Kim, G. W. Evans, M. Angstadt, S. S. Ho, C. S. Sripada, J. E. Swain, I. Liberzon, K. L. Phan. Effects of childhood poverty and chronic stress on emotion regulatory brain function in adulthood. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.13082