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Study Up For 'Think': Lessening The Impact Of Poverty On Students' Brains


Brain plasticity is the idea that brains aren’t static entities but rather are constantly being reorganized when learning or experiencing novel things. Thus, it’s no surprise that aspects of poverty—crowding, violence, hunger, family instability—have been shown to change the brain for the worse and impact language, learning and attention span among kids.

At noon, Krys Boyd will sit down with Dr. Jacquelyn Gamino to discuss how these consequences could be mitigated (or even reversed) through timely intervention in the middle school years. Gamino is the director of UT Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth’s Adolescent Reasoning Initiative, which has developed a cognitive training program for children called SMART.

Poverty most weakens the brain’s executive functioning skills, which include goal setting, multitasking, focusing and memory through what has been called a “bandwidth tax.” This impairment is said to be comparable to losing 13 IQ points. 

Another aspect of the achievement gap in children may be attributed to differences in parent-child interactions among socioeconomic divisions. Children born into poverty hear about 30 million fewer wordsthan their wealthier peers by the age of three, which is thought to put them at an educational disadvantage by kindergarten. 

Gamino is also assistant research professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at UT Dallas.

Listen to 'Think' at noon and 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday on KERA 90.1 or streamlive.