The Pareto Principal and Social Burden

Many of us have heard of some form of the 80:20, or Pareto Principal. For example 80% of a country’s wealth lies in 20% of the population; or 80% of a business’ profits are generated by 20% of its customers. In a fascinating paper, published in the December 2016 issue of Nature Human Behavior, our Science Advisory Board member Terrie Moffitt and her research team (led by Dr. Avshalom Caspi) show that this Pareto Principal can be applied in ways we never imagined. Focusing on costly health-care, criminal justice, and social welfare burdens the Moffitt researchers identified that a relatively small fraction of a population (~20%) contributed the majority of economic burdens (~80%).
Following a population of 1000 adults since their birth (all born between 1972-1973), the Moffit researchers found that a small, 22%, of the cohort was responsible for 81% of crimes, 78% of prescriptions, 77% of their children’s fatherless years, 66% of the welfare benefit payments, 57% of nights spent in a hospital bed, 54% of cigarettes smoked, 40% of kg of obese weight, and 36% of all injury insurance claims. These finding are quite profound.
We typically assume that interventions must be applied to an entire population to reduce costly lifetime problem behaviors. These interventions are difficult to develop and, ironically, costly when applied on an entire population basis. Here we have evidence that it is not the entire population we need to focus on, but in fact, focusing on a small minority will have a huge impact. This allows for more practical development and affordable application of interventions – thus reducing future moral and economic burden.
But the question is, “can these minority individuals be identified prior to their costly problem behaviors?” The Moffitt group was surprisingly able to answer this question, “yes!” Each individual in the study had undergone a 3 year old pediatric exam which included a neurological evaluation and assessments of verbal comprehension, language development, motor skills, and social behavior. This yielded a summary index that we are so pleased they call a ‘brain health’ index. The researchers found a correlation between the brain health index results and adult problem behaviors.
We see great hope in these findings. Being able to identify individuals at risk for adult problem behaviors, in particular violent and criminal behaviors, provides the opportunity to intervene at an early age and to change the course of lives. There is clearly more to be done – this is the first step to myriad possibilities. We need to understand what interventions are effective, what are the underlying causes of the problem behaviors, the interplay between genetics and environment, and notably, eliminating the barriers to people advocating for their own and their loved ones’ brain health. The Moffitt research is one example of the type of visionary science The Avielle Foundation is supporting and Terrie’s lab was the recipient of the 2016 Avielle Foundation Luminary Award. Please help us to support more research and to build bridges between the neurosciences and behavioral sciences. This is how we can imagine preventing violence and building compassion.

A. Caspi, R. M. Houts, D. W. Belsky, H. Harrington, S. Hogan, S. Ramrakha, R. Poulton, and T. E. Moffitt. Childhood forecasting of a small segment of the population with large economic burden.Nature Human Behaviour 1:0005, 2016.

A Practice a Day Keeps the Trouble Away… Maybe?

Emily Kolodka
Neuroscience Intern, The Avielle Foundation
Biochemistry Junior, Middlebury College
[email protected]

Sports Girl and Brain Health - SpaarHere at TAF, we’re committed to preventing violence and promoting brain health through research and community education. What goes into preventing violence, however, is more than just eliminating its risk factors; it’s identifying and building protective factors that lead to kindness, connection, and compassion as well. We’re not only talking about ways to prevent violence, but taking time to appreciate nutrition and fitness because of the strong connections between brain health and healthy, fit bodies, and with satisfaction with life. With this in mind, we wanted to take a scientific approach to the commonly held belief that exercise – particularly playing sports – is one of the protective factors we’re looking to encourage. Often we hear parents explain that they encourage organized sports for their children to “keep them out of trouble.” But does it actually prevent violence?

There is clear evidence that the physical fitness derived through sports participation has many benefits.

Read More

Tucson Art Show and Fundraiser

Arizona Avielle Foundation supporters – If you have a young artist, an appreciation of art, or want to help us prevent violence, build compassion, engage and educate communities, please support our Firefly Celebration of Art at the Gregory School in Tucson on April 23rd.Firefly Celebration of Art Square


Please click HERE for the Info Flyer on how attend.

Invite your friends to this fun event!

Please click HERE for artwork submission instructions.

Newtown Brain Health First Aid


Local TAF Friends,

Here is another opportunity to attend a Youth Brain Health First Aid class, free of charge! These courses, provided in partnership between the Avielle Foundation and the Resiliency Center of Newtown, are intended to serve the Newtown and surrounding local communities.

Here is the skinny:


1. The next course is at two part weekday class:
Thursday, February 11th and 18th, from 9 AM – 1 PM – To sign up, simply RSVP using the form found here: YBHFA

2. We are offering these courses to help communities feel more comfortable recognizing the signs and symptoms of youth approaching a brain health crisis and to think of ways to help and intervene.
3. This is an official certification course. We will continue offering these courses in the Newtown, CT area on a roughly quarterly basis, free of charge (a $250 value), for as long as folks sign up.
4. EVERYONE is welcome!!
5. If you cannot make it to a Newtown course, but would like the certification course taught at your place of business, school, or community, write to us at [email protected] and we will work something out!

Avielle Foundation Firefly Newsletter 2015

It’s here, it’s finally here!

The Firefly





Dear TAF Supporters,

We are so proud of the great success the Avielle Foundation has had thus far, in our nearly 3-year existence. We don’t take for granted what this success is based upon. Everything we have today came from you—From our grassroots supporters—Thank you! This past year went by at an incredible pace and brought with it amazing and innovative ideas for change and progress. Here is a link to this year’s issue of The Firefly, our newsletter. In this issue we highlight how these ideas are coming to life with the power to change the world. These inspirational ideas and the financial means to make them a reality have come from you, because you can imagine

Our financial support has come from folks of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, political and religious leanings, and from not only across the United States, but from around the world.

We are grateful to you all for supporting our cause, and helping us champion brain health, community engagement, and education. Thank you for sharing our vision of a better tomorrow. It is this collective imagination and vision that sets us free to change the way the everyday citizen looks at the brain, studies its health, approaches violence, builds compassion, and engages communities.  A new world is just over the horizon. Thank you for your generous donations, support, and imagination! This issue of the Firefly sheds light on the ways in which your donations are helping us in our mission to prevent violence and build compassion through brain health research, community engagement, and education.

together,we can imagine…Change

Most Sincerely,
Jeremy and Jennifer

JGR Signature JLH Signature



Jeremy G Richman, PhD

Founder & CEO, The Avielle Foundation