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Socially Deprived Brains

October 2, 2012

Neglect keeps young brains from developing adequate insulation.



Socially deprived brains.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Social neglect early in life may rob brain cells of critical insulation. This according to researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital. It’s well-known that young children raised in socially deprived environments develop cognitive problems. Now, neuroscientist Gabriel Corfas and his colleagues have found that mice reared without playmates or toys develop less myelin, or fatty insulation, in the brain’s prefrontal cortex.

GABRIEL CORFAS (Harvard Medical School/Boston Children’s Hospital):

Which we know, results in slower conduction of nerve impulses in the brain.

In fact, the brains of isolated mice looked and functioned like those of genetically engineered, myelin-deficient mice. And returning the mice to a socially rich environment didn’t undo the damage. Corfas says it’s not yet clear whether social isolation deprives developing brains of a critical stimulus, or damages them with stress.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.