Professionals from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have now revealed that stress could have a negative impact on brain development in children. The effect was apparently observed in the prefrontal cortex that is primarily involved in learning and memory.
As part of the analysis, a group of children aged between 9 and 14 were interviewed along with their parents. According to what was seen, children who experienced intense stress seemingly attained lower points in terms of spatial memory. They scored less in trials designed to gauge their short term memories, such as locating an object in a maze.
“There has been a lot of work in animals linking both acute and chronic stress to changes in a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in complex cognitive abilities like holding on to important information for quick recall and use. We have now found similar associations in humans, and found that more exposure to stress is related to more issues with certain kinds of cognitive processes,” remarked Jamie Hanson, a UW-Madison psychology graduate student.
Precisely, a region of the prefrontal cortex called the anterior cingulated appeared to occupy less space in the brains of stressed kids. This portion of the brain is known to play a primary role in spatial working memory. Though the differences seen were slight, they were associated with some important cognitive functions in people.
The study reported in the journal Neuroscience, did not show that stress causes irreversible damage to the brain. It put forth that stress could delay the brain development of kids. Nevertheless, the regions with delayed growth can be restored by reducing stress in the affected kids as the brain is plastic, the team says.