KEYNOTE: Overcoming the Impact of Poverty on the Brain

Friday February 3, 2023
4:00 - 5:15 PM
Sagamore Ballroom

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.


Meet the Author
Friday, February 3 from 5:15pm - 5:45pm EST
Horacio Sanchez will be greeting in-person attendees at the "Meet the Author" counter outside the Sagamore Ballroom on Level 2.

In-Person Lecture
neuroscience, data decision, evidence based practices, systems of support, professional learning, school improvement