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:
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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.