A new article has been published which adds more to that we know about deprivation on development of the mind, body and brain.
Millions of children worldwide live in nonfamilial institutions. We studied impact on adult brain structure of a particularly severe but time-limited form of institutional deprivation in early life experienced by children who were subsequently adopted into nurturing families. Institutional deprivation was associated with lower total brain volume in a dose-dependent way. Regionally specific effects were seen in medial prefrontal, inferior frontal, and inferior temporal areas. Deprivation-related alterations in total brain volume were associated with lower intelligence quotient and more attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms; alterations in temporal volume seemed compensatory, as they were associated with fewer attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms. We provide evidence that early childhood deprivation is related to alterations in adult brain structure, despite environmental enrichment in intervening years.
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Enriched Environments as a Potential Treatment for Developmental Disorders: A Critical Assessment
The beneficial effects of enriched environments have been established through a long history of research. Enrichment of the living conditions of captive animals in the form of larger cages, sensory stimulating objects, and opportunities for social interaction and physical exercise, has been shown to reduce emotional reactivity, ameliorate abnormal behaviors, and enhance cognitive functioning. Recently, environmental enrichment research has been extended to humans, in part due to growing interest in its potential therapeutic benefits for children with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs). This paper reviews the history of enriched environment research and the use of enriched environments as a developmental intervention in studies of both NDD animal models and children. We argue that while environmental enrichment may sometimes benefit children with NDDs, several methodological factors need to be more closely considered before the efficacy of this approach can be adequately evaluated, including: (i) operationally defining and standardizing enriched environment treatments across studies; (ii) use of control groups and better control over potentially confounding variables; and (iii) a comprehensive theoretical framework capable of predicting when and how environmental enrichment will alter the trajectory of NDDs.
Early Adverse Experiences and the Developing Brain