— PsyPost.org (@PsyPost) December 1, 2015
The researchers found larger gray matter volumes in multiple brain regions, especially in emotional brain circuitry, in the left-behind children compared to children living with their parents. The mean value of IQ scores in left-behind children was not significantly different from that of controls, but the gray matter volume in a brain region associated with memory encoding and retrieval was negatively correlated with IQ score.
Since larger gray matter volume may reflect insufficient pruning and maturity of the brain, the negative correlation between the gray matter volume and IQ scores suggests that growing without parental care may delay brain development.
“Our study provides the first empirical evidence showing that the lack of direct parental care alters the trajectory of brain development in left-behind children,” Xiao said. “Public health efforts are needed to provide additional intellectual and emotional support to children left behind by parents.”