Monday, February 06, 2023

Black and White Brains are Different

CNN reports on a new study of Black brains:
Researchers at Harvard University examined MRI scans of 7,350 White and 1,786 Black children ages 9 and 10. The data in the study was collected by the National Institutes of Health in 2019. ...

In the study, researchers found that Black children often developed behavioral problems later in life such as PTSD, anxiety and depression. These children also were susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse and suicide attempts and were likely to commit violence, the study said. ...

Harnett said his team began exploring a cognitive development study to dispel “this kind of folk belief that Black and White people have categorically different brains.”

But he found that the folk belief was true. From the study:
Relatedly, previous work outside the ABCD Study found lower neural reactivity to threat within the PFC, hippocampus, and amygdala in Black participants compared with White participants ...

Linear mixed-effects models revealed that Black and White children in the present sample differed in gray matter volumes in 11 of the 14 a priori regions of interest, after covarying for family relatedness, gender, age, and scanner type (Figure 1; Table 2). (An alternative visualization of the results is provided in Figure S1 in the online supplement.) White children showed greater gray matter volumes compared with Black children in the amygdala, hippocampus, frontal pole, superior frontal gyrus, rostral anterior cingulate, pars opercularis, pars orbitalis, lateral orbitofrontal cortex, caudal middle frontal gyrus, and caudal anterior cingulate and smaller gray matter volume compared with Black children in the pars triangularis (all p values <0.001).

The study was not able to find a cause for these differences. It could have been entirely genetic. They did note:
Researchers said Black children are much more likely to be exposed to violence, live in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and combat systemic racism daily than White children. They also are exposed to those factors at an earlier age, the study said.

The most recent US Census data shows that Black families have a lower median income, higher rates of unemployment and poverty, and lower rates of educational achievement compared to White families, the study notes.

The obvious conclusion is that Blacks have genes causing structural differences in the brain, and as a result their communities have more violence, less income, and less education.

The Harvard researchers do not say this, of course. They make no attempt to rule it out either. They have no control group, or any way to say whether low income is causing brain scan differences, or brain differences are causing low income. Or gene differences are causing both.

It is hard to see how income could be a causal factor. Black Americans live better than most of the world, and better than Whites of a couple of generations ago. Do all those people have brain irregularities just because of lower income? Obviously not, or researchers would have discovered it.

If Blacks have brains that particularly prone to violence, and society punishes violent criminals, is that systemic racism? I think the Harvard researchers would say yes to that.

Don't blame me if this subject is offensive. I am just the messenger. It would be great if we could just treat Blacks better and they would have normal brains. This Harvard study says otherwise.

1 comment:

CFT said...

I wonder if toxicology was involved in any part of the study. If drug and alcohol use is higher in an individual regardless of race (I'm thinking more along the lines of accepted cultural norms), I would be hardly surprised if other mental faculties were impaired in the short and long term as well.