Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison states, stress can affect brain development in children by changing the growth of certain parts of the brain and the ability of brain function.
"There have been many animal studies linking acute and chronic stress to changes in the brain called the prefrontal cortex, involved in complex cognitive ability to remember important information quickly and use," said Jamie Hanson, of the University of Wisconsin Madison.
"We have found a similar association in humans, and found that individuals who frequently experience stress associated with more problems to some types of cognitive processes," he said.
Researchers say children who have experienced stressful events more intense and almost every moment of their lives has a score or a low value when doing a test called a spatial working memory. These children tend to have trouble navigating the short-term memory tests.
Brain scans showed that the anterior cingulate, a part of the prefrontal cortex is believed to play a key role in spatial working memory, takes up less space in children are more often exposed to stress. "This is a subtle difference, but this difference was significant associated with cognitive ability," said Hanson who published his findings in the Journal of Neuroscience.
In their study, researchers determined the level of stress through interviews with children ages 9 to 14 years along with their parents. The research team, comprised of UW-Madison psychology professor Richard Davidson of Seth Pollak and extensively collect biographical events from mild to severe stress.
"Instead of focusing on one specific type of stress, we tried to look at a variety of stress," says Hanson. "We want to know as much as we can, and then use all this information to then get an idea of how chronic stress and challenges of each child," he added.
Researchers also noted a change in brain tissue known as white matter and gray. Gray matter in early development appear to allow for flexibility; children can play and excel in different activities.
This study intended to how experts can help children who often experience stress. "Understanding whether and how stress affects this process can help us find out whether there may be similar interventions that can help children living in conditions of stress, and how this may affect the brain," researchers said.
Source : Physorg