Researchers at the School of Medicine have identified changes in the brains of children growing up in poverty. Those changes can lead to lifelong problems like depression, learning difficulties and limitations in the ability to cope with stress. But the study showed that the extent of those changes was influenced strongly by whether parents were attentive and nurturing. Pictured is principal investigator Joan L. Luby, MD.
School-age children whose mothers nurtured them early in life have brains with a larger hippocampus, a key structure important to learning, memory and response to stress. The new research, by child psychiatrists and neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is the first to show that changes in this key region of children’s brain anatomy are linked to a mother’s nurturing.
Photo courtesy University of IowaCould there be a link between the obesity epidemic and eugenic thinking? A historian of science at Washington University in St. Louis poses the question.As obesity rates continue to grow in the United States, threatening the health of millions of Americans, a historian of science warns that social problems such as this cannot be solved through science, especially genetics, alone. In this new “gene age” in which large amounts of research funds are used for studies on the genetics of such complex social traits as alcoholism, criminality or obesity, for example, Garland E. Allen, Ph.D., professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, says the climate is ripe for a “re-packaged” eugenics in American society. Allen points out that 100 years ago, eugenics, a movement that claimed many social, personality and mental traits were hereditary, was emerging as a major social movement in Europe and the United States. His concern: it might well still be with us today.