Recent research has shown that children who live in institutions such as orphanages, and those who suffer adversities such as abuse, abuse, abandonment or poverty, have alterations in the development of their brain and have cognitive deficits, which are likely to reverse if positively modify the circumstances of their environment.
The authors of the study, from the Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratories of the Children's Hospital of Boston, had access to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) performed on Romanian children included in the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, which analyzes the impact of institutionalization has on the smallest. Thus, the researchers were able to compare three different groups of children who were between 8 and 11 years of age. The first group consisted of 29 children who had been raised in the institution in which they were still living, another 25 children were randomly selected to go to foster homes, and 20 children had never lived in an institution.
Magnetic resonances showed that institutionalized children had a smaller volume of gray matter than children who lived with host families
Magnetic resonances showed that institutionalized children had a smaller volume of gray matter than children living with host families, and also showed a decrease in the volume of white matter compared to non-institutionalized children; however, the children who lived in foster homes did not show differences in the volume of white matter with children who were never institutionalized.
The data of this study, together with those obtained in previous studies, which show that institutionalized children suffer from cognitive deterioration, support the thesis of the researchers, who explain that the peaks of gray matter growth throughout childhood indicate that the type of environment in which children are raised and the difficulties they face significantly influence the development of their brain.
In most of the institutions that take care of minors, the attention they receive is low and children are exposed to serious psychological and physical negligence. The good news is that improvements have also been seen in the children who moved from the institution to a host family, and this is explained, according to the scientists, because the white matter develops slowly and it is easier for the therapy to reverse the negative impacts.