Inequality linked to differences in kids’ brain connections

Growing up in a socioeconomically disadvantaged household may have lasting effects on children’s brain development, a large new study suggests. Compared with children from more-advantaged homes and neighborhoods, children from families with fewer resources have different patterns of connections between their brain’s many regions and networks by the time they’re in upper grades of elementary school.
One socioeconomic factor stood out in the study as more important to brain development than others: the number of years of education a child’s parents have.

Brain-Like Organoids Grown in a Dish Provide Window into Autism

Whatever you do, don’t call them “mini-brains,” say University of Utah Health scientists. Regardless, the seed-sized organoids—which are grown in the lab from human cells—contained an array of neural and other cell types found in the cerebral cortex, the outermost layer of the brain involved in language, emotion, reasoning, and other high-level mental processes. They are providing insights into the brain and uncovering differences that may contribute to autism in some people.

Study of pre-teens yields surprises about alcohol, tobacco and marijuana

They may only be in 4th or 5th grade, but 1 in 10 pre-teen children already say they’re curious about using alcohol or tobacco products, and 1 in 50 say they’re curious about using marijuana, a new study shows.
As many as 3% of the nearly 12,000 9- and 10-year-olds surveyed say they already have a friend who uses one of these substances. And those who said they did were also much more likely to be curious about trying alcohol or tobacco and other nicotine-containing products themselves.

Young Adults’ Alcohol Use and Cannabis Use Rise and Fall Together Rather than Substituting for Each Other

Young adults’ use of cannabis and alcohol tends to rise and fall together, rather than one substance substituting for the other, according to a new study. Understanding the relationship between cannabis use and alcohol use is critical for informing policy and public health strategies. Legalizing recreational cannabis use has raised the possibility that cannabis may substitute for risky drinking or other substance use, potentially with less severe public health consequences.

NIH-funded study shows children recycle brain regions when acquiring new skills

Scientists studied the brain activity of school-aged children during development and found that regions that activated upon seeing limbs (hands, legs, etc.) subsequently activated upon seeing faces or words when the children grew older. The research, by scientists at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, reveals new insights about vision development in the brain and could help inform prevention and treatment strategies for learning disorders. The study was funded by the National Eye Institute and is published in Nature Human Behaviour.

Does cannabis affect brain development in young people with ADHD? Too soon to tell, reports Harvard Review of Psychiatry

At least so far, the currently limited research base does not establish that cannabis has additional adverse effects on brain development or functioning in adolescents or young adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), concludes a review in the July/August issue of Harvard Review of Psychiatry. The journal is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

Innovative Parenting Programs Address Inequality in Young Children’s Development

Parent education programs and interventions that begin shortly after the birth of a child have shown to significantly impact parenting behaviors that support social and academic engagement for children growing up in poverty.

Depressed Moms Who Breastfeed Boost Babies’ Mood, Neuroprotection and Mutual Touch

Feeding method and affectionate touch patterns in depressed and non-depressed mothers and babies as well as infant’s EEG activity showed that mother-infant affectionate touch differed as a function of mood and feeding method (breastfeeding and bottle-feeding). Infants in the depressed and bottle-fed group reduced touch toward their mothers while breastfeeding had a positive effect on both mother and baby. Infants of depressed and breastfeeding mothers showed neither behavioral nor brain development dysregulation previously found in infants of depressed mothers.

Strokes in babies are surprisingly common. Here’s how the body rushes to the rescue.

New research is shedding light on the development of the brain’s immune defenses – and how those defenses respond to strokes that strike one in 4,000 babies in the first month of life.

Machine Learning Identifies Personalized Brain Networks in Children

Machine learning is helping Penn Medicine researchers identify the size and shape of brain networks in individual children, which may be useful for understanding psychiatric disorders. In a new study published in Neuron, a multidisciplinary team showed how brain networks unique to each child can predict cognition. The study is the first to show that functional neuroanatomy can vary greatly among kids, and is refined during development.

In Some Children with Autism, “Social” and “Visual” Neural Circuits Don’t Quite Connect

Researchers combined eye gaze research with brain scans to discover that in a common subtype of autism, in which ASD toddlers prefer images of geometric shapes over those of children playing, brain areas responsible for vision and attention are not controlled by social brain networks, and so social stimuli are ignored.