top of page

How Poverty Changes the Brain

This isn't the first study of it's kind, but I had a nasty encounter with someone online who was "trying" to compliment me for being smart. He then went on to talk about The Bell Curve, etc...

Thankfully I'm pretty well educated on alot of different things and this is one of the arguments I used to shut him down.

You saw the pictures in science class—a profile view of the human brain, sectioned by function. The piece at the very front, right behind where a forehead would be if the brain were actually in someone’s head, is the pre-frontal cortex. It handles problem-solving, goal-setting, and task execution. And it works with the limbic system, which is connected and sits closer to the center of the brain. The limbic system processes emotions and triggers emotional responses, in part because of its storage of long-term memory. When a person lives in poverty, a growing body of research suggests the limbic system is constantly sending fear and stress messages to the prefrontal cortex, which overloads its ability to solve problems, set goals, and complete tasks in the most efficient ways. This happens to everyone at some point, regardless of social class. The overload can be prompted by any number of things, including an overly stressful day at work or a family emergency. People in poverty, however, have the added burden of ever-present stress. They are constantly struggling to make ends meet and often bracing themselves against class bias that adds extra strain or even trauma to their daily lives. And the science is clear—when brain capacity is used up on these worries and fears, there simply isn’t as much bandwidth for other things.

The article gives a pretty good read on what one company is doing with this knowledge to bridge achievement gaps, and while it doesn't touch on race, per se, poverty is something that most Black people find themselves in.

That poverty is a result of systemic racism, not "cultural pathology" or "racial genetics". I also expect to see the burgeoning field of epigenetics (the effect of environment on gene expression, but not change to basal DNA) touch on stuff like this too.


4 views0 comments
bottom of page