Using sophisticated imaging, Canadian James Swain will soon begin to peer inside the brains of people who grew up in poverty.
Over the past four decades, researchers have established how poverty shapes lives, that low socioeconomic status is associated with poor academic performance, poor mental and physical health and other negative outcomes.
Dr. Swain is part of a new generation of neuroscientists investigating how poverty shapes the brain.
The University of Michigan researcher will use a number of imaging technologies to compare the structure and function of brains of young adults from families with low socioeconomic status to those who are middle-class.
He knows the work has the potential to be controversial, but he hopes it will eventually lead to new teaching methods or early childhood interventions that would help children from low socioeconomic status (SES) families succeed at school and in life.
“That would be the dream, to inform social policy,” said Dr. Swain, who is from Toronto.
He and other neuroscientists are building on preliminary evidence that suggests the chronic stress of living in an impoverished household, among other factors, can have an impact on the developing brain.