Experiments may illuminate plight of neglected children
Changes in the brains of mice that were isolated as young pups may help explain the profound behavioral problems of severely neglected children. The mouse experiments suggest that neglect during a specific developmental window irreversibly stunts brain development, researchers report in the Sept. 14 Science.
Over the last decade, researchers have catalogued brain deficits and behavioral problems in Romanian orphans who were raised in bare-bones environments with little social stimulation. Many of these children display hyperactivity, impulsivity and compulsive behavior such as arm flapping. Although superficially friendly, these kids have trouble forming meaningful relationships.
By studying mice that had been isolated early in life, researchers led by Gabriel Corfas of Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School hoped to uncover how social deprivation can affect the developing brain. After the mice had weaned, the researchers put them int