The Parent Infant Centre

it can be too late
but never too early

Welcome to ourNews, where we keep up-to-date with research and other news related to infant mental health. These articles can be of interest to both parents and professionals.
We are keen to know your views and so please do comment on our articles.
Is there a topic that you would like us to write about? Just send us a message via 'Contact us'.

ourAdvice, our other blog, has brief posts with advice for parents.

ourNews

Early parental care and brain development

Guest post by Kristi Poppi - June 15th 2016

Hallam Hurt, a neonatologist in Philadelphia and her colleagues conducted a longitudinal study in order to explore early childhood experience and later brain structure. The researchers published the study in 2010 demonstrating that childhood experience shapes the developing brain.

The study included 49 African American middle school-aged children who were already a part of a previous study conducted by Hurt et al (1995) exploring the effects of gestational cocaine exposure. The participants were male and female children that were followed since birth. Also, none of the participants had Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or any chromosomal disorder linked with developmental delay. The study included ecologically valid-in-home measures of childhood experience and MRI measures of brain structure in adolescence. The childhood home environments were assessed with the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (Home) inventory (Caldwell et al, 1984) when the children were 4 and 8 years old. More specifically, the elements of the child’s life that were assessed were: parental nurturance (how warm and available the parents are) and environmental stimulation (availability of cognitively stimulating toys and activities). Later on, the participants completed high-resolution structural brain imaging.

The results showed that early parenting experience (at 4 years old) affects hippocampal development - a part of the brain associated with memory - but no link was found between nurturing at age 8 and the hippocampus. The children who were more cognitively stimulated had a better performance on language tasks, but the ones raised in a more nurturing environment were inclined to have higher IQs and their performance on memory tasks was better.

The findings of the study demonstrated the importance of parental nurturance since it was determined that the role of warm parental care was more important than cognitive stimulation for normal hippocampal development, especially during early childhood years. It should be taken into consideration though that the generalizability of the results is limited since the sample consisted only of African American children of low socioeconomic status. Nonetheless, it is highlighted by the authors that even within the low level of socioeconomic status, the quality of parental nurturance at early childhood can alter hippocampal volume in adolescence. Therefore, it is demonstrated by the study how crucial it is to grow up in an emotionally supportive environment. Love and warmth can actually help your baby’s brain develop!

References

Caldwell BM, Bradley RH. (1984). Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (HOME). Little Rock, AR: University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Hurt H, Brodsky NL, Betancourt L, Braitman LE, Malmud E, Giannetta J. (1995). Cocaine-exposed children: follow-up through 30 months. J Dev Behav Pediatr. .16:29–35.

Rao, H., Betancourt, L., Giannetta, J. M., Brodsky, N. L., Korczykowski, M., Avants, B. B., Gee, J., Hurt, H., Detree, J.A., Farah, M. J. (2010). Early Parental Care Is Important for Hippocampal Maturation: Evidence from Brain Morphology in Humans. NeuroImage, 49(1), 1144–1150.


Comments
Quyen Isaachsen commented on 27-Oct-2016 12:23 AM
Thanks very nice blog!

Post a Comment




Captcha Image

Trackback Link
http://www.infantmentalhealth.com/BlogRetrieve.aspx?BlogID=10293&PostID=623917&A=Trackback
Trackbacks
Post has no trackbacks.

Welcome to ourNews, where we keep up-to-date with research and other news related to infant mental health. These articles can be of interest to both parents and professionals.
We are keen to know your views and so please do comment on our articles.
Is there a topic that you would like us to write about? Just send us a message via 'Contact us'.

ourAdvice, our other blog, has brief posts with advice for parents.

Recent Posts


Tags


Archive

4