The human brain begins as a neural tube that develops five weeks after conception. Years later, it is fully formed. On Tuesday, experts in neuroscience, genetics and social work met in Manhattan to talk about what can happen to it along the way, and what emerging research tells us about how children who seem broken can be made whole.
Officially, the meeting was called Poverty, the Brain and Mental Health. It could have been called This Is Your Brain on Poverty. Or: Don’t Give Up on Little Kids.
For some children, living in poverty is like playing football without a helmet; everyday life causes social concussions. The developing brain gets hammered not by linebackers, but by the stresses often present in homes where people are poor. Brute force is not required to cause physical changes in the brain, emerging science shows.