Experience impacts brain growth

The brains of children who suffer clinical depression as preschoolers develop abnormally, according to Dr Joan Luby.
The brains of children who suffer clinical depression as preschoolers develop abnormally, according to Dr Joan Luby. PHOTO: ST FILE

EXPERIENCE IMPACTS BRAIN GROWTH

Traditionally, we have thought about the brain as an organ that develops in a predetermined way, but our research is showing that actual experience - including negative moods, exposure to poverty and a lack of parental support and nurturing - has a material impact on brain growth and development.

DR JOAN LUBY, Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis. She is the lead author behind new research that found the brains of children who suffer clinical depression as preschoolers develop abnormally, compared with the brains of preschoolers unaffected by the disorder. Their grey matter - tissue that connects brain cells and carries signals between those cells and is involved in seeing, hearing, memory, decision-making and emotion - is lower in volume and thinner in the cortex, a part of the brain important in the processing of emotions. The findings, published in international peer-reviewed journal JAMA Psychiatry, may help explain why children and others who are depressed have difficulty regulating their moods and emotions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2015, with the headline '(No headline) - SBQUOTE18'. Print Edition | Subscribe