Direct cash payments to low income families might meaningfully alter the neurological development of newborns in families that receive the money, a study is showing. An experiment called Baby’s First Years has been giving one group of hundreds of low-income mothers $20 per month and another group $333 per month for several years. Comparing brain wave activity in infants in the two sets of households shows striking results: Babies in houses getting more money show more high-frequency or “fast” brain activity than babies in houses getting less money. That shows the cash gifts directly changed brain development, says Kimberly Noble, a professor of neuroscience and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. “As kids get older, they tend to have more fast brain activity,” Noble said. “And kids who have more of that fast brain activity tend to score higher” in subsequent tests of cognitive ability.

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