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Orphans' Lonely Beginnings Reveal How Parents Shape A Child's Brain

Parents do a lot more than make sure a child has food and shelter, researchers say. They play a critical role in brain development.

"I've become an advocate fighting for other orphans," Ruckel says. "And I believe that has everything to do with my parents because I realized what love, what compassion, what affection can do."

"I've become an advocate fighting for other orphans," Ruckel says. "And I believe that has everything to do with my parents because I realized what love, what compassion, what affection can do."

Photo by Barry Gutierrez for NPR

Isidor with his adoptive father on first arriving in San Diego from Romania.

Isidor with his adoptive father on first arriving in San Diego from Romania.

Photo by Tom Szalay

Izidor Ruckel dons a hat of a style common in his birthplace, Romania. He now lives in Denver.

Izidor Ruckel dons a hat of a style common in his birthplace, Romania. He now lives in Denver.

Photo by Barry Gutierrez for NPR

In the Institute for the Unsalvageable in Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania, shown here in 1992, children were left in cribs for days on end.

In the Institute for the Unsalvageable in Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania, shown here in 1992, children were left in cribs for days on end.

Photo by Tom Szalay

Children reach out from the windows of the orphanage in Sighetu Marmatiei in 1992.

Children reach out from the windows of the orphanage in Sighetu Marmatiei in 1992.

Photo by Tom Szalay

Izidor Ruckel, shown here at age 11 with his adoptive father Danny Ruckel in San Diego, Calif., says he found it hard to respond to his adoptive parents' love.

Izidor Ruckel, shown here at age 11 with his adoptive father Danny Ruckel in San Diego, Calif., says he found it hard to respond to his adoptive parents' love.

Photo by Tom Szalay

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