Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Parental intervention boosts education of kids at high risk of failure

University of Oregon neuroscientists are using basic research findings to address real world problems

An eight-week-long intervention program aimed at parents from low socioeconomic backgrounds reaped significant educational benefits in their preschool-aged children, a University of Oregon research fellow reported today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In a news briefing (9 a.m. EST, “Poverty and the Brain”) and scientific session later in the day, Courtney Stevens, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Brain Development Lab of UO neuroscientist Helen J. Neville, described preliminary results of a parent-intervention portion of a larger study that also includes other approaches aimed at the children in a federal Head Start program in Oregon. The parent training program was developed by UO doctoral student Jessica Fanning, who recently completed her dissertation.

At the end of the intervention effort, participating parents reported dramatic reductions in family stress, including reduced behavioral problems, compared to parents in the control group. The UO researchers also documented, through testing and brain-wave scans, improvements in the children's language-acquisition skills, memory and cognitive abilities.

The experimental group included 14 children between 3 and 5 years old and their parents. The children underwent brain scans before and after the research period. The parents attended weekly 2.5-hour sessions in which they were coached on improved communication skills and strategies to use with their children to help control their behavior. At the end of testing, they were compared with results from a control group of 14 children who were tested and had brain scans at the beginning and end of the study period, but whose parents did not receive an intervention protocol.

Several other intervention strategies, including the use of music and attention training with small groups of children, were part of the project, but only data from the parental intervention were shared during a AAAS session on "Poverty and Brain Development: Correlations, Mechanisms, and Societal Implications" scheduled for 1:45 p.m.-4:45 p.m. EST.

"Our findings are important because they suggest that kids who are at high risk for school failure can be helped through these interventions," said Stevens, who earned master's and doctoral degrees at the UO and is currently a visiting faculty member at New York's Sarah Lawrence College. "Even with these small numbers of children, the parent training appears very promising.

"We are continuing to assess the parent training program," she added. "We are looking at the effects of the training on children's brain organization, using event-related brain potentials. We are following these children for the next few years to see whether the improvements we see after training persist and generalize to the school environment."

The intervention strategies, being tested with funding from the Institute of Education Science, were created after 30 years of basic research by Neville on the changeability of the human brain, supported primarily by the National Institutes of Health. Neville has studied children and adults with a variety of experiences, including deafness and blindness, to see impacts in the brain. She had found that the auditory cortex and areas of the brain associated with visual abilities -- for years thought to be genetically determined at birth -- rewire and adapt for other helpful uses.

Neville, who initially was scheduled to present the new findings, did not attend the AAAS meeting. She described her early work in an interview at the UO.

"We've identified different neuroplasticity profiles," Neville said. "Within vision, within hearing, within attention and within language some systems in the brain don't seem to change very much when experiences are very different, and others change remarkably. As we looked more into basic development and developmental disorders, these same systems that were enhanced in the deaf and blind were the same ones that appear to be most vulnerable and deficient in disorders such as dyslexia and specific language impairments.

"We've learned that plasticity is a double-edged sword," she said. "A system that is changeable can be enhanced, but it can also be very vulnerable to deficits if it doesn’t get the appropriate help at the right time."

Catching children while they are young is the right time, Neville said. Targeting children from families with low socioeconomic status makes sense, she said, because research in the United States, United Kingdom and several other countries has repeatedly shown a correlation between children's educational achievement and their parents' education and income levels.

"Knowing the plasticity profiles and learning which are most changeable provides us with an opportunity to help in the real world," she said. A societal payoff for such interventions is economic, she added. "The research is not just good for the children; it is good for the economy. "Economists say that investment in early education returns $18 for every dollar spent."

Jim Barlow | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>