HealthDay News — Childhood neglect is linked to changes in the brain’s white matter, according to research published in JAMA Pediatrics.

The researchers looked at 26 abandoned children in Romania who experienced social, emotional, language, and mental development neglect while living in institutions. They were compared with 23 children who were placed in high-quality foster care and 20 children who grew up with their own families. The children were assessed at ages 30 months, 42 months, 54 months, 8 years, and 12 years.

The results showed a significant association between neglect early in life and changes in white matter. However, changes in white matter were less significant in children who had been institutionalized and neglected, but placed in high-quality foster care at an early age.

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“Results from this study contribute to growing evidence that severe neglect in early life affects the structural integrity of white matter throughout the brain,” Johanna Bick, PhD, of Boston Children’s Hospital, and colleagues write.


Bick J et al. JAMA Pediatr. 2015; doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.3212.