int(15) int(8) ESEA Video On Demand National ESEA Association
This video is available as a NAESPA membership benefit or for a limited time as a conference attendee.
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KEYNOTE: Overcoming the Impact of Poverty on the Brain

Poverty is the single most significant event impacting public education today. Every year school districts dedicate resources, draft policies, and create new services to meet the academic and behavioral challenges associated with students coming from poverty. However, much of the attempts of public education to address the need of students in poverty are occurring without vital information on how poverty is transforming the brains of students today. The brain transformations resulting from poverty speak to the heart of the academic and behavioral issues schools seek to overcome.


Studies have found that poverty causes a reduction of gray matter in the prefrontal cortex. Gray matter determines how effectively a region of the brain functions. The more severe the level of poverty, the greater the reduction in gray matter. For example, children living just above the federal poverty line had 3 to 4 percentage less gray matter than what would be expected, and children living below the poverty line experienced an 8 to 10 percent drop in grey matter. Although most studies correlate low gray matter in the prefrontal cortex to poor performance on standardized tests, the ramifications are far more significant. Low grey matter in the prefrontal cortex affects a student’s ability to be successful in life. This session will provide individuals working with economically disadvantaged students with concrete interventions they can do to improve the structure and function of the prefrontal cortex promoting life success.

Session objectives:

  • Identify areas of the brain impacted by poverty and their cognitive, emotional, and social ramifications.
  • Provide a strategy designed to help stabilize the prefrontal cortex improving cognitive function and promoting homeostasis.
  • Explain how poverty negatively impacts the regions of the brain governing social behavior.
  • Model intervention for improving social behavior and empathy.
  • Give participants concrete strategies for increasing gray matter in the prefrontal cortex improving executive function. Poverty’s Impact on the Brain
  • Identify three skills that every school working with low SES students should promote to improve academic performance and behavior.


This talk was presented at:
2023 National ESEA Conference
February 2023 in Indianapolis, IN
Horacio Sanchez

Horacio Sanchez is the President and CEO of Resiliency Inc., an agency leader in helping schools improve school climate, instruction, and discipline. Horacio is recognized as one of the nation’s prominent experts on promoting student resiliency and applying brain science to improve school outcomes. The Maladaptive Council (Academy of Science) recognizes him as a leading authority on emotional disorders and resiliency. He is a highly sought-after speaker and has keynoted many national conferences. Horacio has been a teacher, administrator, clinician, mental health director, and consultant to the Department of Education in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and other states. His diverse education and background have helped him to merge research, science, and practice. Horacio sits on True Health Initiative Council of Directors, a coalition of more than 250 world-renowned health experts, committed to educating on proven principles of lifestyle as medicine. He has authored several articles and books on the topics of resiliency, closing the achievement gap, and applying neuroscience to improve educational practices and outcomes. He is the author of the best-selling book, The Education Revolution published by Corwin Press, which applies brain science to improve instruction, behaviors, and school climate.