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The tragedy of Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu's policy to increase the national birth rate led to as many as 100,000 abandoned children in Romania in 1999—and an unprecedented opportunity to assess the psychological and neurological impact of early life in a state institution. An experiment, undertaken under strict ethical supervision, tracked the fate of children in an institution against those placed in foster care and others who were never institutionalized. Children who went to a foster home during the sensitive period up to 24 months of age fared better than those who remained in an institution when tested later (at 42 months) for developmental quotient (DQ), a measure of intelligence equivalent to IQ, and for brain electrical activity, as assessed by electroencephalograms (EEGs). Entering foster care after two years produced EEGs that resembled those of institutionalized children.

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SOURCES: CHARLES A. NELSON (DQ data); “TIMING OF INTERVENTION AFFECTS BRAIN ELECTRICAL ACTIVITY IN CHILDREN EXPOSED TO SEVERE PSYCHOSOCIAL NEGLECT,” BY R. E. VANDERWERT, P. J. MARSHALL, C. A. NELSON III, C. H. ZEANAH and N. A. FOX, IN PLOS ONE, VOL. 5, NO. 7; JULY 1, 2010 (EEGs)

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