Scans of neglected children’s brains reveal stunning differences

Scans of neglected children’s brains reveal the stunning difference from their well-cared-for peers

  • Remarkable scans of three-year-old children’s brains show visible differences 
  • A nurtured child’s brain is healthy while a neglected one is much smaller 
  • Children who suffer abuse are likely to have different brains to healthy children 

The image on the left is the much bigger, healthy brain of a three-year-old brought up in a nurturing environment.

The one on the right is of a child who has suffered extreme emotional trauma and neglect.

This child in the right scan is suffering from ‘severe sensory-deprivation neglect’ and the brain is far smaller with blurry structures.

It is believed the child will have been subjected to an extreme level of abuse.

The brain on the left belongs to a child who comes from a nurturing background while the right is one of neglect

The image comes from a paper by Professor Bruce D Perry, Chief of Psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital.

Perry shared the images in a paper on how childhood neglect affects cognitive development later in life.

He wrote in the paper: ‘These images illustrate the negative impact of neglect on the developing brain.

‘In the CT scan on the left is an image from a healthy three-year-old with an average head size.

‘The image on the right is from a three-year-old child suffering from severe sensory-deprivation neglect.


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In children who suffer from abuse the brain is far smaller with blurry structures clearly visible

‘This child’s brain is significantly smaller than average and has enlarged ventricles and cortical atrophy.’

This means the child will suffer developmental delays and problems with memory.

Cortical atrophy is something that is more commonly seen in older people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Perry explains that children and adults who have suffered emotional neglect can find it particularly difficult to form healthy relationships.

They may end up with attachment issues, become dependent on one person or socially isolated later in life.

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