Animal Study Proves That Early Isolation and Neglect Permanently Damages Young Brains

Picture: Thomas Black (PD)

Caregivers and clinicians have long known that profoundly neglected infants grow into children with behavioral issues: studies of children rescued from dismal Romanian orphanages often show a wide range of neurological and psychological deficits, known collectively as “Reaction Attachment Disorder.” The exact mechanisms behind these changes were not known.

Now, a groundbreaking new study conducted by researchers from Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School has provided the world with a neurobiological model for how isolation can damage the developing brain:

By studying mice that had been isolated early in life, researchers led by Gabriel Corfas of Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School hoped to uncover how social deprivation can affect the developing brain. After the mice had weaned, the researchers put them into one of three environments: One was a deluxe suite, enriched with fresh toys every other day and populated by friends of similar ages, one was a standard laboratory cage holding four mice, and one was a holding cell for total isolation.

After two weeks, mice in the deluxe suite and the regular cage showed no abnormalities in their behavior or brains. But mice that were isolated showed big changes. These animals were socially stunted, showing less signs of exploratory behavior and a diminished working memory. What’s more, the researchers uncovered stunted development in the brain’s white matter, which helps nerve cells communicate.

In a brain region called the prefrontal cortex, isolated mice had less of a fatty insulating substance called myelin that wraps around nerve cells and helps carry their messages. This part of the brain is thought to be crucial for high-level tasks like social interactions. Myelin-making cells called oligodendrocytes were also stunted. Normally these cells have elaborate, winding tendrils full of complex branches. But isolated mice’s oligodendrocytes were smaller and less elaborate, with fewer branches. The result “shows how sensitive the development of myelin is to experience,” Corfas says.

The two-week period after weaning was critical. If isolation happened three weeks after weaning, the mice didn’t show these deficits. Nor could the isolation effects be reversed later by moving the isolated mice into a better situation.

Human infants are born with very little myelin, but produce more of it as they get older. Mental stimulation is a crucial part of the development of human myelin. Corfas described the first two years of a child’s life as being a crucial window for development, and stated that Romanian infants removed from their orphanages before two years of age had a much better prognosis for development than those removed later.

The development of Reaction Attachment Disorder isn’t exclusive to Romanian orphans, but these victims of negligent state institutions have provided the best opportunity for study and, hopefully, the development of effective therapies.

Read more. 

1 Comment on "Animal Study Proves That Early Isolation and Neglect Permanently Damages Young Brains"

  1. It’s the culture horses pulling, not the genetics wagon pushing…

    (“Reversible marks on the genome allow honeybees to swap
    between lives as nurses and foragers.”?

    Flip From Head- To Feet- Standing…)


    (New Science of Consciousness ? Look underneath the
    AcademEnglish verbiage…)


    Genetics Is Progeny Of

    It evolves from survival
    challenges, from natural selection challenges !!!



    Adnauseam Genetics Is Progeny Of Culture


    Darwin and Pavlov: it is culture, the ubiquitous trait of
    all mass formats’ reaction to circumstances,  that modifies genetic



    Update Comprehension Of Culture-Genetics

    The neural
    system, including the brain, was evolved by unicells communities (cultures) to
    react to, exploit, the environments for survival-natural selection.



    Tree’s leaves
    genetically different from its roots



    The cultures of the roots and leaves, their survival 
    reactions to and exploitation of circumstantial environments,  are
    different, hence their different genetics.


    Common sense is the best scientific approach. Plain and



    Genome Evolves By Culture, Natural Selection, Not



    Rate of de
    novo mutations and the importance of father’s age to disease risk



    RNA nucleotide genes are ORGANISMS, life’s primal ORGANISMS.

    Genomes are template ORGANISMS evolved by the RNAs for
    carrying out their –  RNAs’ – natural-selection tasks.

    All life’s activities originate and evolve for the survival
    of the RNAs.

    THIS is Darwinian evolution.



    Modified RNAs expressions are NOT random mutations. Some of
    them are caused accidents, but not random. Apply Darwinism to them.

    There is no randomness in the universe that evolves from all
    inert mass, singularity,  to all moving mass, energy, and probably back

    Now, after a century of strangled Enlightenment, it’s time
    to restructure science plans, policies and budgets.

    The viable future of humanity is not with natural selection,
    but with scientism, the follow up of Enlightenment.


    Dov Henis (comments from 22nd century)


    Tags: genetic mutations, RNA genes life’s primal organisms,
    genomes template organisms

Comments are closed.