Without appropriate social interaction, myelin production has been shown to decrease. Decreases in myelination may lead to permanent social and cognitive deficits. Timing seems to play a pivotal function. Recovery at some points has been shown possible, however it has also been shown that isolation during critical periods of development leads to lifelong social and cognitive deficits.
There is a “growing body of evidence that so-called glial cells, including oligodendrocytes, do more than just support neurons, but rather participate actively in setting up the brain’s circuitry as they receive input from the environment.” Early neglect stunts the growth of brain pathways necessary for full social and cognitive development due impeded neural pathways and connections to areas of the brain including the pre-frontal cortex.
“Social isolation during early life prevents the cells that make up the brain’s white matter from maturing and producing the right amount of myelin, the fatty “insulation” on nerve fibers that helps them transmit long-distance messages within the brain.”
All types of child abuse are abhorrent, and often there is over-lap between types of abuse present. Yet, neglect seems to cause long-term damage to the physical structure of the brain, and unless it’s extreme gets little adequate attention from authorities. Perhaps this growing body of research can be used to promote better informed policies and procedures.
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