Scientists from King’s College London have found that the brain volumes of neglected babies are 8.6% smaller
Terrifying MRI scans reveal the effect cocaine can have on your brain
Drinking coffee could reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease, scientists claim
Mobile phone addicted parents who do not spend much time holding and talking to their babies could be giving them a smaller brain, research suggests.
Scientists have found the brain volume of neglected orphans rescued from notorious Romanian institutions before the fall of Communism are 8.6% smaller.
Researchers from King’s College London analysed brain scans of 67 Romanian adoptees, now in their twenties, and compared them to 21 English adoptees.
Under former leader Nicolae Ceauşescu, both abortion and contraception were forbidden in Romania.
This increase in the number of births resulted in many children being abandoned in orphanages, which were also occupied by people with disabilities and mental illnesses.
Many babies were left in cots with little interaction with adults other than being fed.
Scientists now know that babies being held and looking at other faces, particularly their parents’, is important for brain development.
This study is the first to show its stark impact on the size of the brain in adulthood.
The longer the time the Romanian adoptees spent in the institutions the smaller the total brain volume, with each additional month of deprivation associated with a 0.27% reduction.
The Romanian adoptees also had lower IQs.
Study lead Prof Mitul Mehta said: “We found structural differences between the two groups in three regions of the brain.
“These regions are linked to functions such as organisation, motivation, integration of information and memory.”
Former Romanian leader Ceausescu believed that population growth would lead to economic growth and citizens were taxed for being childless.
It is estimated around half a million children were brought up in barbaric orphanages before the end of the Cold War.
Scientists believed the human tragedy could reveal disturbing findings about the consequences of neglect during childhood.
The Romanian participants in the study had suffered “severe childhood deprivation”, were often malnourished and had “minimal social contact and little stimulation” before being adopted into families in the UK.
Young Romanian adults, now aged 23 to 28, had “markedly smaller right inferior frontal regions of the brain both in terms of volume and surface area”.
The research, published in the journal Proceedings Of The National Academy of Sciences, is part of an ongoing scientific project which started running in 1990 called the English and Romanian Adoptees (ERA).