From Wired Science:
Books and educational toys can make a child smarter, but they also influence how the brain grows, according to new research presented here on Sunday at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. The findings point to a “sensitive period” early in life during which the developing brain is strongly influenced by environmental factors.
. . . .
To investigate, neuroscientist Martha Farah of the University of Pennsylvania and her colleagues recruited 64 children from a low-income background and followed them from birth through to late adolescence. They visited the children’s homes at 4 and 8 years of age to evaluate their environment, noting factors such as the number of books and educational toys in their houses, and how much warmth and support they received from their parents.
. . . .
Previous work has shown that adverse experiences, such as childhood neglect, abuse, and poverty, can stunt the growth of the brain. The new findings highlight the sensitivity of the growing brain to environmental factors, Farah says, and provide strong evidence that subtle variations in early life experience can affect the brain throughout life.
Link to the rest at Wired Science