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Abstract

A burgeoning literature has recently begun investigating the links between socioeconomic inequality and the developing brain. This work suggests widespread disparities in both brain structure and function that begin as early as the first year of life. Here, we review disparities in neural structure that have been reported in both cortical and subcortical gray matter, as well as in white matter. Disparities in brain function have also been reported, particularly in circuits that support language, memory, executive functioning, and emotion processing. We additionally review recent work investigating the mechanisms that underlie socioeconomic disparities in brain development. Taken together, this work has the potential to identify important targets for intervention in policy and practice.

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... 6 Early life adversity (ELA), including exposure to poverty, parental psychopathology, and stress, increases risk for adverse neurodevelopmental, socioemotional, and health outcomes from childhood and beyond. 7,8,9,10 Human and animal studies suggest that altered brain development may be a key mechanism by which exposure to poverty and related psychosocial stressors increases the risk of poor outcomes. 8,11,12,13 For example, poverty in early childhood is associated with reduced cortical gray and white matter, hippocampal, and amygdalae volumes at school-age. ...
... 7,8,9,10 Human and animal studies suggest that altered brain development may be a key mechanism by which exposure to poverty and related psychosocial stressors increases the risk of poor outcomes. 8,11,12,13 For example, poverty in early childhood is associated with reduced cortical gray and white matter, hippocampal, and amygdalae volumes at school-age. 14,15,16,17,18,19 In turn, altered hippocampal volumes mediate the association of early adversity to behavioral problems in childhood. ...
... 14,15,16,17,18,19 In turn, altered hippocampal volumes mediate the association of early adversity to behavioral problems in childhood. 20 Despite clear and compelling negative impacts of social disadvantage on infant and child neurodevelopment, 7,8,9,10 much less is known about its prenatal effects. ...
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Importance: Exposure to early life adversity alters the structural development of key brain regions underlying neurodevelopmental impairments. The extent that prenatal exposure to life adversity alters structure at birth remains poorly understood. Objective: To determine if prenatal exposure to maternal social advantage and psychosocial distress alters global and regional brain volumes and cortical folding in the first weeks of life. Design: A prospective, longitudinal study of sociodemographically-diverse mothers recruited in the first trimester of pregnancy and their infants who underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging scan in the first weeks of life. Setting: Mothers were recruited from local obstetric clinics from 2017-2020. Participants: Of 399 mother-infant dyads prospectively recruited into the parent study, 280 healthy, term-born infants (47% female, mean postmenstrual age at scan 42 weeks) were eligible for inclusion. Exposures: Maternal social advantage and psychosocial distress in pregnancy. Main Measures and Outcomes: Two measures of latent constructs were created using Confirmatory Factor Analyses spanning Maternal Social Advantage (Income to Needs ratio, Area Deprivation Index, Healthy Eating Index, education level, insurance status) and Psychosocial Stress (Perceived Stress Scale, Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, Everyday Discrimination Scale, Stress and Adversity Inventory). Neonatal cortical and subcortical gray matter, white matter, cerebellar, hippocampus, and amygdala volumes were generated using semi-automated age-specific segmentation pipelines. Results: After covariate adjustment and multiple comparisons correction, greater social disadvantage (i.e., lower Advantage values) was associated with reduced cortical gray matter (p=.03), subcortical gray matter (p=.008), and white matter (p=.004) volumes and cortical folding (p=.001). Psychosocial Stress was not related to neonatal brain metrics. While social disadvantage was associated with smaller absolute volumes of the bilateral hippocampi and amygdalae, after correcting for total brain volume, there were no regional effects. Conclusions and Relevance: Prenatal exposure to social disadvantage is associated with global reductions in brain volumes and cortical folding at birth. No regional specificity for the hippocampus or amygdala was detected. Results highlight that the deleterious effects of poverty begin in utero and are evident in the first weeks of life. These findings emphasize that preventative interventions to support fetal brain development should address socioeconomic hardships for expectant parents.
... Building from decades of research demonstrating socioeconomic disparities in cognitive development (McLoyd, 1998), recent studies have shed light on the neural mechanisms underlying these associations (Farah, 2017). Socioeconomic factors, such as parental education and family income, have been repeatedly associated with brain structure in children and adolescents (Farah, 2017;McDermott et al., 2019;Noble et al., 2015;Noble & Giebler, 2020). Socioeconomic factors represent distal markers of aspects of children's environments that influence their development (Merz et al., 2020;Troller-Renfree et al., 2022). ...
... Numerous studies have revealed associations between socioeconomic factors and cortical structure in children and adolescents (Farah, 2017;Noble & Giebler, 2020). In these studies, higher parental education and family income have been significantly associated with greater SA (Judd et al., 2020;McDermott et al., 2019;Noble et al., 2015) and CT (Lawson et al., 2013;Mackey et al., 2015;McDermott et al., 2019;Romeo et al., 2018). ...
... The cellular processes underlying developmental changes in SA, including synaptic function, have been associated with genes linked with the significant SNPs identified in GWAS of educational attainment (Deary et al., 2021;Okbay et al., 2016). PGS-EA was not significantly associated with mean global CT, consistent with previous research on adolescents and adults (Judd et al., 2020;Mitchell et al., 2020 (Eichenbaum, 2006), which varies significantly across socioeconomic gradients (Noble et al., 2005(Noble et al., , 2007Noble & Giebler, 2020 When not adjusting for total brain volume or PGS-EA, similar to analytic approaches used in previous work (McDermott et al., 2019;Noble et al., 2015), parental education was significantly associated with SA in more cortical regions, including larger portions of the bilateral parahippocampal gyrus, fusiform gyrus, and superior temporal gyrus. In a previous study that also used the PING sample, associations between parental education and SA were more widespread (Noble et al., 2015). ...
Article
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Genome-wide polygenic scores for educational attainment (PGS-EA) and socioeconomic factors, which are correlated with each other, have been consistently associated with academic achievement and general cognitive ability in children and adolescents. Yet, the independent associations of PGS-EA and socioeconomic factors with specific underlying factors at the neural and neurocognitive levels are not well understood. The main goals of this study were to examine the unique contributions of PGS-EA and parental education to cortical structure and neurocognitive skills in children and adolescents, and the associations among PGS-EA, cortical structure, and neurocognitive skills. Participants were typically developing 3- to 21-year-olds (53% male; N = 391). High-resolution, T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging data were acquired, and cortical thickness (CT) and surface area (SA) were measured. PGS-EA were computed based on the EA3 genome-wide association study of educational attainment. Participants completed executive function, vocabulary, and episodic memory tasks. Higher PGS-EA and parental education were independently and significantly associated with greater total SA and vocabulary. Higher PGS-EA was significantly associated with greater SA in the left medial orbitofrontal gyrus and inferior frontal gyrus, which was associated with higher executive function. Higher parental education was significantly associated with greater SA in the left parahippocampal gyrus after accounting for PGS-EA and total brain volume. These findings suggest that education-linked genetics may influence SA in frontal regions, leading to variability in executive function. Associations of parental education with cortical structure in children and adolescents remained significant after controlling for PGS-EA, a source of genetic confounding.
... The study of the association between child development and poverty has flourished during the last decades (Johnson et al., 2016;Noble & Giebler, 2020). Among this area of research, some studies focused on the possibility of promoting changes in several cognitive processes to explore their plasticity through the implementation of cognitive intervention programs or activities (e.g., Blair & Raver, 2014;Campbell et al., 2001;Fisher et al., 2016;Goldin et al., 2014;Neville et al., 2013;Prats et al., 2018;Segretin et al., 2014). ...
... Evidence from developmental sciences suggests that during the first two decades of life, poverty 1 is associated lower scores in tasks with cognitive, emotional, and language demands (Johnson et al., 2016;Noble & Giebler, 2020). Such associations vary as a function of how poverty is measured (Lipina, 2017) and what cognitive measures are used (Johnson et al., 2016;Noble & Giebler, 2020). ...
... Evidence from developmental sciences suggests that during the first two decades of life, poverty 1 is associated lower scores in tasks with cognitive, emotional, and language demands (Johnson et al., 2016;Noble & Giebler, 2020). Such associations vary as a function of how poverty is measured (Lipina, 2017) and what cognitive measures are used (Johnson et al., 2016;Noble & Giebler, 2020). Several studies have shown particular interest in the development of executive function processes at different levels of analysis (Johnson et al., 2016;Lawson et al., 2018;Noble & Giebler, 2020). ...
Article
Contemporary evidence shows that different intervention approaches can be effective in improving executive cognitive performance in preschoolers from poor homes. However, several aspects about the role of individual and contextual differences in intervention effects remain to be elucidated. The present study aimed to explore the impact of a computerized executive cognitive intervention with lab-based tasks in preschoolers from Unsatisfied Basic Needs (UBN) homes. In the context of a randomized controlled design, different activities were administered to children according to their baseline performance in a variety of cognitive tasks tapping inhibitory control, working memory, and planning demands (i.e., high- and low-performance intervention and control groups). Results suggested that the impact of the intervention was shown preferentially by high-performers in Tower of London and KBit tasks, who increased their performances in the posttest assessment. This finding supports the importance of considering individual and contextual differences in the design of interventions aimed at changing the cognitive performance of children from poor homes.
... Building from decades of research demonstrating socioeconomic disparities in cognitive development (McLoyd, 1998), recent studies have shed light on the neural mechanisms underlying these associations (Farah, 2017). Socioeconomic factors, such as parental education and family income, have been repeatedly associated with brain structure in children and adolescents (Farah, 2017;McDermott et al., 2019;Noble et al., 2015;Noble & Giebler, 2020), with evidence pointing to the environmental factors involved in these associations (Merz et al., 2020). Yet, the environments in which children are raised are associated with the genotypes they inherit from their parents (i.e., gene-environment correlation) (Plomin et al., 2016). ...
... Numerous studies have revealed associations between socioeconomic factors and cortical structure in children and adolescents (Farah, 2017;Noble & Giebler, 2020). In these studies, higher parental education and family income have been significantly associated with greater SA (Judd et al., 2020;McDermott et al., 2019;Noble et al., 2015) and CT (Lawson et al., 2013;Mackey et al., 2015;McDermott et al., 2019;Romeo et al., 2017). ...
... Parental education was significantly associated with SA in the left parahippocampal gyrus after adjusting for PGS-EA. The parahippocampal gyrus, as part of the medial temporal lobe, has been strongly associated with episodic memory (Eichenbaum, 2006), which varies significantly across socioeconomic gradients (Noble et al., 2005(Noble et al., , 2007Noble & Giebler, 2020). When not adjusting for total brain volume, similar to analytic approaches used in previous work (McDermott et al., ...
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Background Genome-wide polygenic scores for educational attainment (PGS-EA) and socioeconomic factors, which are correlated with each other, have been consistently associated with academic achievement and general cognitive ability in children and adolescents. Yet, the independent associations of PGS-EA and socioeconomic factors with specific underlying factors at the neural and neurocognitive levels are not well understood. The goal of this study was to examine the unique contributions of PGS-EA and parental education to cortical thickness (CT), cortical surface area (SA), and neurocognitive skills in children and adolescents. Methods Participants were typically developing children and adolescents (3-21 years of age; 53% male; N = 391). High-resolution, T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging data were acquired. PGS-EA were computed based on the most recent genome-wide association study of educational attainment. Sustained attention, inhibitory control, working memory, vocabulary, and episodic memory were measured. Results PGS-EA and parental education were independently and significantly associated with SA, vocabulary, and attention outcomes but were not associated with CT. Vertex-wise analyses indicated that higher PGS-EA was significantly associated with greater SA in the left medial orbitofrontal gyrus and inferior frontal gyrus after accounting for parental education. Higher parental education was significantly associated with greater SA in the left parahippocampal gyrus after accounting for PGS-EA. Conclusions These findings suggest that education-linked genetics may influence SA, particularly in certain frontal regions, leading to variability in academic achievement. Results suggested genetic confounding in associations between parental education and SA in children and adolescents, with these associations remaining significant after controlling for PGS-EA.
... Higher SES is associated with a wide variety of positive developmental outcomes, including better physical and mental health, higher academic achievement, and improved neurocognitive functioning (Adler and Newman, 2002;Bradley and Corwyn, 2002;Noble et al., 2005;Ursache and Noble, 2016;Kivimäki et al., 2020). Increasingly, SES is not only considered as a covariate that should be accounted for but rather viewed as a key component in studying the brain's structure and function early in life (for a review, see Noble and Giebler, 2020;Olson et al., 2021) and into adulthood (Chan et al., 2018). Growing up in a low-SES environment has repeatedly been shown to be a risk factor for altered brain development, predicting decreased gray and white matter volume and less mature functional brain networks, possibly due to an accelerated pace of functional maturation in response to stress (Hanson et al., 2013;Tooley et al., 2021). ...
... Previous work suggests that these two environmental factors are also associated with one another (see Bornstein et al., 2007). SES is theorized to influence children's brain development through increased environmental stress (Noble and Giebler, 2020;Tooley et al., 2021), and a similar mechanism could explain how SES impacts maternal sensitivity (Farah, 2017;Neuhauser, 2018). Additionally, the positive effects of high maternal sensitivity could act as a protective factor against exposure to low-SES environments during early development (Luby et al., 2013), with positive parenting intervention studies in low-SES populations suggesting a potential buffering role (Brody et al., 2017). ...
... We focused specifically on three, pre-defined higher-order functional brain networks, the frontoparietal network (FPN), the default mode network (DMN), and a network of homologous-interhemispheric connections (HI), as these networks can be assessed during infancy using fNIRS (e.g., Bulgarelli et al., 2020;Kelsey et al., 2021a) and are known to develop throughout the first year of life and thus may be particularly susceptible to shaping by external factors like SES and maternal sensitivity (Gao et al., 2009(Gao et al., , 2015Gilmore et al., 2018;Kelsey et al., 2021a). The FPN is composed of the rostral and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and regions of the parietal cortex, and is thought to play a role in cognitive control and executive functioning, a behavioral outcome that often exhibits SES-related differences (Merz et al., 2019;Noble and Giebler, 2020). The DMN consists of the medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, precuneus, inferior parietal cortex, and lateral temporal cortex, and is involved in social cognition and internally-oriented thought (Raichle et al., 2001;Buckner and DiNicola, 2019). ...
Article
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Infancy is a sensitive period of human brain development that is plastically shaped by environmental factors. Both proximal factors, such as sensitive parenting, and distal factors, such as socioeconomic status (SES), are known predictors of individual differences in structural and functional brain systems across the lifespan, yet it is unclear how these familial and contextual factors work together to shape functional brain development during infancy, particularly during the first months of life. In the current study, we examined pre-registered hypotheses regarding the interplay between these factors to assess how maternal sensitivity, within the broader context of socioeconomic variation, relates to the development of functional connectivity in long-range cortical brain networks. Specifically, we measured resting-state functional connectivity in three cortical brain networks (fronto-parietal network, default mode network, homologous-interhemispheric connectivity) using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), and examined the associations between maternal sensitivity, SES, and functional connectivity in a sample of 5-month-old infants and their mothers (N = 50 dyads). Results showed that all three networks were detectable during a passive viewing task, and that maternal sensitivity was positively associated with functional connectivity in the default mode network, such that infants with more sensitive mothers exhibited enhanced functional connectivity in this network. Contrary to hypotheses, we did not observe any associations of SES with functional connectivity in the brain networks assessed in this study. This suggests that at 5 months of age, maternal sensitivity is an important proximal environmental factor associated with individual differences in functional connectivity in a long-range cortical brain network implicated in a host of emotional and social-cognitive brain processes.
... Such disparities have been described in brain structure (McDermott et al., 2019;Noble et al., 2015) and function (White et al., 2019), particularly in circuits that support language (Merz et al., 2020;Romeo et al., 2018), memory (Hair et al., 2015;, executive functioning Rosen et al., 2018), and emotion processing (Gellci et al., 2019;Kim et al., 2016). Evidence suggests that these differences are neither innate nor immutable (Farah, 2017): Socioeconomic disparities in brain function are not observed shortly after birth (Brito et al., 2016), and such disparities are thought to be in large part rooted in differences in experience, such as exposure to responsive parenting or chronic stress (Noble & Giebler, 2020). ...
... Rather than focusing on understandings about the neuroscience of socioeconomic inequality that have recently been reviewed elsewhere (Farah, 2017;Noble & Giebler, 2020), here we briefly review several new directions in the field, beginning first with a consideration of the deficit versus adaptation framework. That is, although scientists largely agree that socioeconomic disparities in brain development are experience-dependent phenomena rooted in neuroplasticity, historically, such differences have been framed as deficits, which may benefit from intervention. ...
Article
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Childhood socioeconomic status (SES) has far-reaching linkages with children's cognitive and socioemotional development, academic achievement, health, and brain structure and function. Rather than focusing on understandings about the neuroscience of socioeconomic inequality that have recently been reviewed elsewhere, the present article reviews several new directions in the field, beginning first with a consideration of the deficit versus adaptation framework. Although scientists largely agree that socioeconomic disparities in brain development are experience-dependent phenomena rooted in neuroplasticity, historically, such differences have been framed as deficits, which may benefit from intervention. However, emerging research suggests that some developmental differences among children experiencing adversity may alternatively be considered context-appropriate adaptations to the individual's environment. We next discuss how socioeconomic circumstances are inextricably intertwined with race, and consider how measurement of racism and discrimination must be part of a full understanding of the neuroscience of socioeconomic inequality. We argue that scientists must consciously recruit racially and socioeconomically diverse samples-and include measures of SES, race, and discrimination in analyses-to promote a more complete understanding of the neuroplasticity specifically, and psychological science more broadly. We discuss the extent to which researcher and editor positionality have contributed to these problems historically, and conclude by considering paths forward. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
... Neuroscience research on SES has revealed a generally positive relation with overall brain volume, as well as with regional cortical and subcortical volumes and cortical surface areas (8)(9)(10). We note variability across studies in the regions most associated with SES, which may be due, in part, to the relatively small samples studied, to differences in the ways SES has been measured and analyzed (e.g., choices of covariates) (10,11), and to different environments with different levels of assistance to individuals of low SES (12,13). ...
... Neuroscience research on SES has revealed a generally positive relation with overall brain volume, as well as with regional cortical and subcortical volumes and cortical surface areas (8)(9)(10). We note variability across studies in the regions most associated with SES, which may be due, in part, to the relatively small samples studied, to differences in the ways SES has been measured and analyzed (e.g., choices of covariates) (10,11), and to different environments with different levels of assistance to individuals of low SES (12,13). One of the goals of the present study is to establish the relation of SES to regional gray matter volumes (GMVs) in the largest sample so far examined for voxel-level data, using a comprehensive measure of SES and controls for a number of potential confounds, based on a well-powered, preregistered analysis plan. ...
Article
Full-text available
Socioeconomic status (SES) correlates with brain structure, a relation of interest given the long-observed relations of SES to cognitive abilities and health. Yet, major questions remain open, in particular, the pattern of causality that underlies this relation. In an unprecedently large study, here, we assess genetic and environmental contributions to SES differences in neuroanatomy. We first establish robust SES-gray matter relations across a number of brain regions, cortical and subcortical. These regional correlates are parsed into predominantly genetic factors and those potentially due to the environment. We show that genetic effects are stronger in some areas (prefrontal cortex, insula) than others. In areas showing less genetic effect (cerebellum, lateral temporal), environmental factors are likely to be influential. Our results imply a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors that influence the SES-brain relation and may eventually provide insights relevant to policy.
... Familial transmission of SUD risk likely occurs through both genetic and environmental mechanisms (Bjork et al., 2017;Egervari et al., 2018;Yu and McClellan, 2016;Zimić and Jukić, 2012), and includes the transmission of behavioral traits, such as impulsivity, risk-seeking and emotional dysregulation, all of which contribute to early drug experimentation (Ersche et al., 2012;Squeglia et al., 2014;Vanyukov et al., 2009). In addition, disadvantaged family and social environments are known to impair children's brain maturation (Dufford et al., 2020;Ursache et al., 2016), for review see (Noble and Giebler, 2020) and development of emotional and cognitive abilities, which can result in risky behaviors, including substance use (Hicks et al., 2014;Tobler et al., 2013). Dysfunction in multiple brain regions involved in executive functions, cognitive control, and reward processing (Haber and Knutson, 2010;Shoal and Giancola, 2001;Tarter et al., 2003;Wong et al., 2006), are likely to underlie behaviors that increases risk of SUD in adolescents. ...
... In particular, those studies did not match socio-economic status (SES) of the FH+ and FH− groups, had small sample size, or focused on FH + teens from non-disadvantaged environments. Recent evidence has suggested that white matter variations among children can be detected based on differences in SES or income alone ((Dufford et al., 2020;Ursache et al., 2016) for review see (Noble and Giebler, 2020)). For example, Dufford et al. (2020) reported a significant prospective positive association between childhood income-to-need ratio and white matter organization in the bilateral uncinate fasciculus, bilateral cingulum bundle, bilateral SLF, and corpus callosum. ...
Article
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A family history (FH+) of substance use disorder (SUD) increases an adolescent's risk for substance use initiation and progression. Greater impulsivity and reward seeking behavior is known to be associated with such risk. At the neurological level, dysfunction of cortico-striatal and cortico-limbic pathways have been proposed as contributors to the increased SUD risk in adolescents with FH+. In addition, disadvantaged environments have been associated with atypical brain connectivity and higher SUD risk. However, it remains unclear if this increased risk is manifested in structural and functional brain abnormalities prior to regular drug use. To examine this, we employed complementary imaging of structural and functional connectivity of 60 FH+ and 55 FH- minority adolescents, all from families with low socio-economic status. We acquired diffusion tensor-imaging (DTI) and resting state fMRI data across the whole brain. Structural connectivity was examined by measuring fractional anisotropy (FA) using DTI, to indicate integrity of the white matter tracts. Functional connectivity within and between resting state networks was assessed by the correlation of blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signal between intra and inter-network nodes. Psychological measures of impulsivity and reward seeking were also obtained with standardized measures, the BIS-11 and the BIS/BAS, and their association with FA and functional connectivity was evaluated. We found no differences in white matter integrity between the groups. Compared to FH-, FH + adolescents showed significantly greater functional connectivity between posterior regions of the Default Mode Network (DMN) and the Fronto-Parietal Network (FPN). While psychological measures of reward seeking behavior did not differ between the FH+ and FH- groups, impulsivity, assessed by the BIS-11, was significantly higher for FH+. However, we did not find significant differences between the FH+ and FH- groups when comparing associations of BIS-11 scores and white matter integrity or functional connectivity measures. The stronger inter-network functional connectivity between the DMN and FPN in FH + adolescents suggests that transmitted risk for SUD may be related to large-scale brain dynamics. The lack of structural differences support the importance of early prevention efforts for FH + adolescents, before initiation of drug use, allowing for healthy brain development.
... Alternatively, exposure to chronic stress within the family has cascading e ects on multiple brain and body systems, and has also been considered a likely mechanism linking socio-economic disadvantage to emotional development (Pace et al., 2017;Lawson, Hook and Farah, 2018;Merz, Wiltshire and Noble, 2019;WG3-ch5). More recently, a burgeoning eld has centered on identifying socio-economic disparities in the developing brain (Noble and Giebler, 2020). Indeed, research has linked socio-economic factors to certain structural and functional brain di erences which underlie the aforementioned skills. ...
... Indeed, research has linked socio-economic factors to certain structural and functional brain di erences which underlie the aforementioned skills. For instance, socio-economic di erences in cortical surface area, cortical thickness and grey matter volume have been commonly noted in frontal and temporal cortical regions (Noble et al., 2015b;McDermott et al., 2019;Merz et al., 2020;Noble and Giebler, 2020), which support the development of language, EF and emotion regulation. Other work has linked family socio-economic characteristics to children's hippocampal volume, which is critical for learning and memory (Hair et al., 2015;McDermott et al., 2019;. ...
Chapter
The overall goal of the ISEE Assessment is to pool multi-disciplinary expertise on educational systems and reforms from a range of stakeholders in an open and inclusive manner, and to undertake a scientifically robust and evidence based assessment that can inform education policy-making at all levels and on all scales. Its aim is not to be policy prescriptive but to provide policy relevant information and recommendations to improve education systems and the way we organize learning in formal and non-formal settings. It is also meant to identify information gaps and priorities for future research in the field of education.
... Cortical surface area and thickness index different developmental processes, with surface area assumed to reflect the development of cortical columns and cortical thickness reflecting the development of cells within a column as well as synapse formation, pruning, and myelination ( Johnson & de Haan, 2015). As with SES effects (Noble & Giebler, 2020), the intervention effects were more pronounced for cortical surface area than thickness. Table 7A provides the numerical values corresponding to the volume effects shown in Figure 3, for comparison with the cortical surface area and cortical thickness results reported next. ...
... The present findings are also relevant to understanding the recently observed relation between brain structure and socioeconomic status (Noble & Giebler, 2020). Two general types of explanation have been put forward for this relation. ...
Article
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Sustained differences in early life cognitive and linguistic stimulation were found to impact adult brain structure. Starting in infancy, groups of very low SES children were randomized to either 5 years of cognitively and linguistically stimulating high-quality center-based care or a comparison condition. The intervention resulted in large and statistically significant changes in brain structure measured in midlife, particularly for males. These findings are the first to extend the large literature on experimental environmental enrichment effects on animal brains to humans, and to demonstrate the effects of environmental features that matter uniquely for human development, such as linguistic stimulation.
... Brito & KimberlyJohnson et al., 2016;Noble & Giebler, 2020) (Letourneau, Duffett-Leger, Levac, Watson, & Young-Morris, 2013) all previous reviews have focused on overall SES influences on brain development. This mini review adds to current knowledge by showing that social marginalization, stratification, and systemic racism weaken the well-described SES influences on brain development of racial and ethnic minority populations. ...
Article
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Socioeconomic status (SES) influences health, behaviors, and well-being. Emerging information suggests that SES effects on health may be in part be due to SES effects on brain development. We have conducted a mini review of U.S.-based studies examining SES effects on brain development to synthesize the existing knowledge on what brain structures and functions show large and consistent SES influences. We have reviewed SES effects on performance in various cognitive functions such as learning, memory, and language. Additionally, we have reviewed the emerging literature from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study on the effects of social marginalization in reducing the effects of SES on children and youth brain development. These diminished returns of SES in minoritized youth are not due to genetics; rather, we argue that they stem from systemic and structural racism, social stratification, and marginalization that generate inequalities across the SES spectrum. As a result of these diminished returns, inequalities expand from low-SES to mid- and high SES sections of US society.
... Previous reviews of the SES-brain imaging literature have either been narrative (e.g., Farah, 2017Farah, , 2018Hackman & Farah, 2009;Johnson et al., 2016;Noble & Giebler, 2020), or have limited studies based on age or other variables investigated (Buckley et al., 2019;Ellwood-Lowe et al., 2016;Olson et al., 2021). The only systematic reviews to our knowledge (Buckley et al., 2019;Olson et al., 2021), concluded that most studies report direct association between SES and neural architecture and function, but that the findings were not always consistent. ...
Article
A growing literature has shown associations between socioeconomic disadvantage and neural properties (such as brain structure and function). In this review, we aimed to synthesize findings on the neural correlates of socioeconomic status (SES) in youth samples across neuroimaging modalities. We also aimed to disentangle the effects of different SES measures (e.g., parent income and education) in our synthesis. We found relatively consistent patterns of positive associations between SES and both volume and cortical surface area of frontal regions, and amygdala, hippocampal, and striatal volume (with most consistent results for composite SES indices). Despite limited longitudinal work, results suggest that SES is associated with developmental trajectories of gray matter structure. Higher SES was also found to be associated with increased fractional anisotropy of some white matter tracts, although there were more null than positive findings. Finally, methodological heterogeneity in brain function and connectivity studies prevented us from making strong inferences. Based on our findings, we make recommendations for future research, discuss the role of mitigating factors, and implications for policy.
... [1][2][3][4] Beginning as early as six months old, youth raised with lower household incomes exhibit poorer performance on measures of total IQ 5 as well as specific cognitive processes (e.g., executive function, memory). [6][7][8] Greater educational attainment among children whose families received supplemental income [9][10][11] and boosts in cognitive performance induced by enriched environments in non-human animal models 12 highlight the plausibility that socioeconomic status (SES) may have a causal impact on child cognition and heighten the urgency of addressing the epidemic of childhood poverty. 13,14 At the same time, the moderate heritability of cognitive ability 15 and SES, as well as their shared genetic architecture (rg=0.65-0.82 in adults) 16,17 has been used to argue that cognitive deficits related to childhood poverty may be partially attributable to shared genetic liability. ...
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Childhood cognitive abilities are heritable and influenced by malleable environmental factors such as socioeconomic status (SES). As cognition and SES share genetic architecture, it is critical to understand the extent to which SES is associated with cognition beyond genetic propensity to inform the potential benefit of SES-based interventions. Previous investigations conducted in small samples have suggested that SES is linked with cognitive ability independent of polygenic prediction for educational attainment. Here, we extend this work to a large sample (total n = 4,650) of children (ages 9-10) of genomically-confirmed European ancestry. We find that an SES composite (i.e., family income-to-needs, caregiver education, and neighborhood median income) and a polygenic cognition score composite created using genomic structural equation modeling (COG PGS; Educational Attainment, Intelligence, and Executive Function) are associated with cognitive performance indices (i.e., general ability, executive function, learning/memory, fluid intelligence) that are largely independent of one another. SES x COG PGS interactions are not associated with cognition. These findings provide further evidence for the significant role of modifiable environmental factors in the development of cognitive abilities in youth.
... There are still many areas of uncertainty in linking brain structure to socio-economic status, especially on the issue of cortical thickness, and not all studies have supported this relationship [53]. A confounding factor may be that socio-economic association with cortical thickness may vary with age or cognitive ability [54]. ...
Article
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Children born into and raised in disadvantaged families tend to experience poorer health and more developmental delays, lower achievement, and a greater number of behavioural and emotional problems than children from wealthier homes. There is growing evidence that poverty and social inequality leave their imprint on brain structure as well. The brain exhibits considerable plasticity, one expression of which is shaped by the biology of inequality. A specific consequence is cognitive deficit found among children raised in poverty and subject to social discrimination. This paper argues that several pathways impacted by poverty, including chronic stress, malnutrition, exposure to heightened levels of air pollution, and other toxin exposures, syndemically link social inequality to underlying neural mechanisms and to suboptimal brain development and structure. These deficits need not be permanent and are reversible through urgently needed structural, socio-economic intervention.
... (Bos et al., 2018;Schnack et al., 2015)). Relatedly, the neuroimaging literature increasingly considers the developing brain in context, probing the dynamic relations between brain structure and function and culture, ethnicity and socio-economic factors (Farah, 2017;Noble and Giebler, 2020;Qu et al., 2021). Growing insight into these complex relations may also shape the methods in pediatric imaging in the years to come (Zhao et al., 2019). ...
Article
Through dynamic transactional processes between genetic and environmental factors, childhood and adolescence involve reorganization and optimization of the cerebral cortex. The cortex and its development plays a crucial role for prototypical human cognitive abilities. At the same time, many common mental disorders appear during these critical phases of neurodevelopment. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can indirectly capture several multifaceted changes of cortical macro- and microstructure, of high relevance to further our understanding of the neural foundation of cognition and mental health. Great progress has been made recently in mapping the typical development of cortical morphology. Moreover, newer less explored MRI signal intensity and specialized quantitative T2 measures have been applied to assess microstructural cortical development. We review recent findings of typical postnatal macro- and microstructural development of the cerebral cortex from early childhood to young adulthood. We cover studies of cortical volume, thickness, area, gyrification, T1-weighted (T1w) tissue contrasts such a grey/white matter contrast, T1w/T2w ratio, magnetization transfer and myelin water fraction. Finally, we integrate imaging studies with cortical gene expression findings to further our understanding of the underlying neurobiology of the developmental changes, bridging the gap between ex vivo histological- and in vivo MRI studies.
... There is growing empirical evidence from cognitive neuroscience investigating the relationship between brain function/structure and childhood poverty (Hackman et al., 2010;Jensen et al., 2017;Lipina & Posner, 2012;Ursache & Noble, 2016). Research in this area shows that early adverse experiences associated with poverty (e.g., language and cognitive stimulation at home, family stress, and malnutrition) are associated with changes in the development of different aspects of cognition at multiple levels of organization (Chan et al., 2018;Farah, 2017;Hackman et al., 2015;Ivanovic et al., 2019;Lawson et al., 2018;Lipina et al., 2013;Noble & Giebler, 2020;Noble et al., 2015). Studies that have implemented EEG methods to explore these associations have been centered on the study of socioeconomic (SES) and/or income disparities in brain activity related to the resting state or different cognitive tasks (Pietto et al., 2017). ...
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Different interventions have shown effectiveness in modifying cognitive performance on cognitive control demanding tasks in children from poor homes. However, little is known about the influence of cognitive interventions on children’s brain functioning and how individual variability modulates the impact of those interventions. In the present study, we examined the impact of two individualized cognitive training interventions on cognitive performance and neural activity in preschoolers from poor homes. Participants were classified based on their basal performance (i.e., high and low performers) in an inhibitory control task and then separated into intervention and control groups within each performance level. The control groups completed an intervention with three activities without cognitive control demands. The intervention groups performed three training activities with increased cognitive demands adjusted according to their cognitive baseline performance. Children were trained weekly for 12 weeks and tested before and after the intervention, at kindergarten, using EEG recordings during a Go/NoGo task performance. Results revealed significant training effects on midfrontal neural activity associated with conflict processing in both intervention groups. Low performers exhibited changes on preresponse conflict processing (i.e., N2). However, the high-performing group had larger training effects on both conflict-related activity (i.e., N2, ERN, and theta power) and fluid intelligence. These results suggest that the consideration of individual differences in the design of interventions could contribute to the adaptation of training demands and that the use of mobile EEG technology could be useful to assess eventual neural markers in more ecological contexts.
... To conclude, we found that home literacy practices are associated with brain mechanisms supporting word recognition in 8-year-olds, in line with the idea that experiences beyond the classroom may influence brain regions supporting reading and learning 57 . Our results also support a model suggesting that home literacy practices may affect children's reading through precursors skills such as vocabulary 10,11 . ...
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Previous studies indicate that children are exposed to different literacy experiences at home. Although these disparities have been shown to affect children’s literacy skills, it remains unclear whether and how home literacy practices influence brain activity underlying word-level reading. In the present study, we asked parents of French children from various socioeconomic backgrounds ( n = 66; 8.46 ± 0.36 years, range 7.52–9.22; 20 girls) to report the frequency of home literacy practices. Neural adaptation to the repetition of printed words was then measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in a subset of these children ( n = 44; 8.49 ± 0.33 years, range 8.02–9.14; 13 girls), thereby assessing how sensitive was the brain to the repeated presentation of these words. We found that more frequent home literacy practices were associated with enhanced word adaptation in the left posterior inferior frontal sulcus ( r = 0.32). We also found that the frequency of home literacy practices was associated with children’s vocabulary skill ( r = 0.25), which itself influenced the relation between home literacy practices and neural adaptation to words. Finally, none of these effects were observed in a digit adaptation task, highlighting their specificity to word recognition. These findings are consistent with a model positing that home literacy experiences may improve children’s vocabulary skill, which in turn may influence the neural mechanisms supporting word-level reading.
... Less use of CR and greater expressive suppression among Latino and Asian heritage college students is associated with greater depressive symptoms (Juang et al., 2016). Adolescents from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds are at an increased risk of stressors that negatively impact brain development, subsequently impacting cognitive and emotional abilities (Noble & Giebler, 2020;Noble et al., 2021). Therefore, incorporating a model focused on increasing these cognitive and affective regulatory skills in youth from disadvantaged backgrounds can have a substantial impact on subsequent development. ...
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Cognitive reappraisal is adaptive for decreasing symptoms of depression; however, a gap in the research is understanding the childhood processes that contribute to cognitive reappraisal in adolescence. This study examined executive function and frontal electroencephalogram (EEG) asymmetry during late childhood as predictors of adolescent cognitive reappraisal and depressive symptoms. Data were from 123 participants in late childhood (age 10) and adolescence (age 14.5). A moderated mediation model was fit to the data to examine frontal EEG asymmetry as a moderator in the relation between late childhood inhibitory control and adolescent cognitive reappraisal as well as adolescent cognitive reappraisal and adolescent depressive symptoms. Results indicated lower inhibitory control was associated with lower cognitive reappraisal when children had right frontal EEG asymmetry. Lower cognitive reappraisal in turn was associated with higher depressive symptoms for children with right frontal EEG asymmetry. Working memory and cognitive flexibility were also examined but were not significant indicators. Results suggest the potential for targeting inhibitory control and cognitive reappraisal to diminish depressive symptoms particularly among adolescents with right frontal EEG asymmetry.
... Measurement of childhood SES is complex, and the most common indicators are family income, parental education, and parental occupation (McLoyd, 1998). Some scientists have just investigated the association between SES measures and brain development recently (Judd et al., 2020;Noble and Giebler, 2020;Tomasi and Volkow, 2021). Typical results include that: (i) Children from low income families may have a lower frontal, temporal, and hippocampal volume, as well as smaller brain surface area; (ii) Children from family with low parental education may have a lower cortical thickness in frontal areas; and (iii) Higher parental education level may be associated with significantly increased volume in the fetal white matter, deep gray matter, and brainstem. ...
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Low socioeconomic status (SES) may generally have a long-lasting negative effect on cognitive development, and show deficits in the development of executive functions. However, it is unclear whether there is an SES-dependent disparity in the functional brain development of the prefrontal cortex. By collecting task-related functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) data and behavioral data (e.g., intelligence, language, home reading environment (HRE), family income, and parental education level), the current study aimed to detect whether the SES of preschool children (N = 86) is associated with prefrontal activation during the joint attention task. Results verified that low-SES children show lower right prefrontal activation during joint attention than Relatively High-SES children. In addition, our findings confirmed the mediating effect of HRE on the association between SES and brain activation during joint attention, as well as that between SES and language ability. These results suggest that SES contributes to functional development of the prefrontal regions, and the improvement of HRE could be a potential strategy to intervene SES-related disparities on child development.
... Although largely under genetic control (Fjell et al. 2015), structural brain development is highly influenced by environmental factors too. Cortical surface area and cortical thickness have both been found to be impaired after exposure to early sensory deprivation (congenital blindness) (Jiang et al. 2009;Park et al. 2009), to low childhood socioeconomic status (SES, defined by family income, parental education and occupation) (Noble and Giebler 2020) and to adverse childhood experience (McLaughlin et al. 2019). Structural brain development builds the backbone for functional development including perception and cognitive functions. ...
Article
It is unknown whether impaired brain structure after congenital blindness is reversible if sight is restored later in life. Using structural magnetic resonance imaging, visual cortical surface area and cortical thickness were assessed in a large group of 21 sight-recovery individuals who had been born blind and who months or years later gained sight through cataract removal surgery. As control groups, we included 27 normally sighted individuals, 10 individuals with permanent congenital blindness, and 11 sight-recovery individuals with a late onset of cataracts. Congenital cataract-reversal individuals had a lower visual cortical surface area and a higher visual cortical thickness than normally sighted controls. These results corresponded to those of congenitally permanently blind individuals suggesting that impaired brain structure did not recover. Crucially, structural brain alterations in congenital-cataract reversal individuals were associated with a lower post-surgery visual acuity. No significant changes in visual cortex structure were observed in sight-recovery individuals with late onset cataracts. The results demonstrate that impaired structural brain development due to visual deprivation from birth is not fully reversible and limits functional recovery. Additionally, they highlight the crucial importance of prevention measures in the context of other types of aberrant childhood environments including low socioeconomic status and adversity.
... For example, higher family income is associated with a larger surface area of the cerebral cortex, particularly in regions that support children's language and executive functioning (9,10). This association is strongest among the most economically disadvantaged families (9), suggesting that a given increase in family income may be linked with greater differences in brain structure among economically disadvantaged children compared with more advantaged peers (11). ...
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Significance This study demonstrates the causal impact of a poverty reduction intervention on early childhood brain activity. Data from the Baby’s First Years study, a randomized control trial, show that a predictable, monthly unconditional cash transfer given to low-income families may have a causal impact on infant brain activity. In the context of greater economic resources, children’s experiences changed, and their brain activity adapted to those experiences. The resultant brain activity patterns have been shown to be associated with the development of subsequent cognitive skills.
... Los efectos que conllevan los contextos o experiencias atípicas en los procesos de desarrollo cognitivo de los niños han sido investigados desde hace varias décadas en psicología (Noble & Giebler, 2020;Noble et al., 2012). Por ejemplo, los estudios sobre los efectos de la institucionalización y el abandono en el desarrollo infantil revelan que, en contextos con reducidas experiencias físicas y sociales, los niños muestran déficits en casi todas las dimensiones de su desarrollo cognitivo, en comparación con niños criados en condiciones típicas (Almas et al., 2016;Bick et al., 2018). ...
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Resumen A partir de la pandemia de covid-19, los gobiernos reglamentaron el aislamiento preventivo obligatorio como una medida para minimizar la propagación del virus SARS-CoV-2. El objetivo del artículo es reflexionar acerca de las consecuencias de este tipo de medidas sobre el desarrollo y el aprendizaje en estudiantes de diferentes niveles educativos, con el fin de proponer posibles adaptaciones educativas que se requieren ante el retorno de la comunidad educativa a la presencialidad. La reflexión estuvo alimentada por dos fuentes: revisión de literatura sobre el tema y avances en investigaciones psicoeducativas de algunos de los autores del presente texto. Las consecuencias identificadas son esencialmente negativas para el desarrollo cognitivo, las funciones ejecutivas, el desempeño en matemáticas y la salud mental. Como agravantes se identificaron el bajo capital social y cultural de las familias, las limitaciones en el acceso y uso de las herramientas digitales, deficiente formación de los docentes en el uso de las tecnologías con fines pedagógicos y dificultades de autorregulación en los estudiantes. Palabras clave: desarrollo, aprendizaje, educación, rendimiento escolar, pandemia, aprendizaje en línea Para citar este artículo: Castellanos-Páez, V., Abello-Correa, R., Gutiérrez-Romero, M., Ochoa-Angrino, S., Rojas , T., & Taborda-Osorio, H. (2022). Impacto de la pandemia en el aprendizaje: reflexiones desde la psicología educativa. Praxis & Saber, 13(34), e14532. https://doi.
... These high levels of early life stress are known to impact children's health both directly, by causing low-grade, chronic inflammation [75,76], and indirectly through pathways that amplify negative health-related behaviors used to cope or self-soothe (e.g., consumption of high-fat and high-sugar diets and other maladaptive eating styles, as well as smoking, alcohol, and drug use). Child welfare services provide critical, tangible resources (e.g., financial support for food, clothing, housing, and transportation) for families in need, which help to blunt the effects of toxic stress on children's developing neurobiology [77,78]. More research is needed to determine if the beneficial effects PCIT exerts on behavioral patterns can have a therapeutic impact on children's underlying biology as well, in conjunction with or beyond the provision of tangible resources. ...
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Objective: We tested the efficacy of standard Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), a live-coached, behavioral parent-training program, for modifying problematic eating behaviors in a larger effectiveness trial of PCIT for children involved in the child welfare system. Method: Children ages 3-7 years and their parents were randomly assigned to PCIT intervention (n = 120) or services as the usual control (SAU; n = 84) groups in a randomized clinical trial. Children's eating behaviors were assessed pre- and post-intervention via the Child Eating Behaviors Questionnaire (CEBQ). Intention-to-treat analyses were conducted, followed by per-protocol analyses, on treatment-engaging families only. Results: PCIT led to reductions in child welfare-involved children's food responsiveness, speed of food consumption, and tendency to engage in emotional overeating relative to children in the services-as-usual control condition. Standard PCIT may be an effective intervention to promote healthy child eating behaviors in families involved with child welfare, even when food-related behaviors are not directly targeted by the intervention. Public Health Significance: This clinical trial provides evidence that child welfare-involved children who received PCIT experienced significant reductions in maladaptive eating-related behaviors, namely food responsiveness, emotional overeating, and speed of eating. These findings were observed in relation to children in a comparison control group who had access to child welfare services-as-usual.
... Poverty is associated with a myriad of cascading and interacting factors that can negatively impact brain development in children (Hyde et al., 2020). Neuroimaging studies on children who come from low SES households report reduced cortical surface area, thickness, and overall volume primarily in frontal and temporal areas associated with attention, language acquisition, executive functioning, memory, and emotional regulation (Noble & Giebler, 2020). Decrements in these structures have accounted for 15-20% of academic deficits (Hair, Hanson, Wolfe, & Pollak, 2015), and SES has been demonstrated to account for 60% more variance in academic achievement versus genome-wide polygenic scores (von Stumm et al., 2020). ...
Article
Objective Intersectionality is the interface between a person’s identities in relation to social systems and institutional discrimination. The concept has generated much interest in psychology for understanding societal inequities and providing culturally informed services to minoritized patients but has yet to be incorporated in clinical neuropsychology. This omission is unfortunate as it is argued that appreciating the impact of institutional discrimination on minoritized groups can enhance our understanding of brain organization and functioning and bolster access to competent neuropsychological services to minoritized patients. The purpose of this article is to illustrate how intersectionality is germane to the discipline of clinical neuropsychology and to make recommendations for infusing it into the practice. Method Theories and findings in cultural neuroscience are summarized to provide a theoretical background for understanding how the environment can impact brain development and organization. The literature on disparities in education, economics, and health disparities between Whites and minoritized groups was reviewed for institutional biases that place minoritized groups at a disadvantage. These topics were selected due to their known impact on brain organization and cognition. This was followed by a similar review for access to competent neuropsychological assessments for minoritized patients. Results There is a confluence of institutional discriminatory processes that contribute to disparities in education attainment, economic status, health disparities, and accessibility to culturally informed neuropsychological services. Perceived discrimination has significant health and cognitive ramifications. Conclusions Intersectionality is germane to appreciating brain functioning and providing competent services to minoritized patients. Recommendations were made to incorporate intersectionality in clinical neuropsychology.
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The COVID‐19 pandemic has had a significant impact on people's lives, requiring a shift in focus to short‐term survival and management of changes in relationships, academic and work environments, and future career options. Understandably, one of the most seminal aspects of career development—deciding on a future career—can seem overwhelming or even irrelevant in the face of such challenges. Neuroscience research offers a scientifically grounded framework for understanding the impact of chronic acute stressors, such as COVID‐19, on functioning and can provide direction for interventions that foster resilience and support clients' ability to reengage in career decision‐making. We discuss research related to the neuroscience of stress and resilience and ways to apply that information within career counseling.
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Recent genetic discoveries offer a new lens through which to study cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and social processes that are foundational to children’s development. In this article, we review the latest advances in genomics—genome‐wide association studies and the polygenic scores that have come out of them—and discuss how these techniques can be leveraged to shed light on developmental research questions. Then, we describe how developmental scientists might apply these methods in their own lines of work—for example, in investigations of individual differences in developmental trajectories, intergenerational transmission, peer relationships, and processes of resilience and positive adaptation. Finally, we discuss ethical concerns and limitations of genetics research as they pertain to developmental science.
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Socioeconomic disadvantage has been linked to increased stress exposure in children and adults. Exposure to stress in childhood has been associated with deleterious effects on cognitive development and well‐being throughout the lifespan. Further, exposure to stress has been associated with differences in brain development in children, both in cortical and subcortical gray matter. However, less is known about the associations among socioeconomic disadvantage, stress, and children's white matter development. In this study, we investigated whether socioeconomic disparities would be associated with differences in white matter microstructure in the cingulum bundle, as has been previously reported. We additionally investigated whether any such differences could be explained by differences in stress exposure and/or physiological stress levels. White matter tracts were measured via diffusion tensor imaging in 58 children aged 5–9 years. Results indicated that greater exposure to stressful life events was associated with higher child hair cortisol concentrations. Further, physiological stress, as indexed by hair cortisol concentrations, were associated with higher fractional anisotropy in the cingulum bundle. These results have implications for better understanding how perceived and physiological stress may alter neural development during childhood.
Chapter
Evidence of the cognitive interventions in poverty shows changes in a variety of self- regulatory and executive processing measures. Nevertheless, these studies present inconclusive outcomes involving methodological and theoretical questions, among other issues such as small effect sizes or difficulties in the transference to untrained processes. An aspect that could mediate the impact of cognitive interventions could be related to inter- and intra-individual differences in the studied samples. Furthermore, the interaction between intervention approaches and these unique individual characteristics could also lead to differential outcomes. Considering individual factors such as age, temperament, baseline cognitive performance, and socioeconomic status in the design of the interventions could be a fruitful approach for improving cognitive intervention outcomes. In the present chapter, we review the theoretical and practical implications of individual differences in the task’s performance. Finally, we highlight recent efforts on addressing some of these issues in innovative approaches in a sample of Argentine preschoolers from different sociodemographic context.KeywordsIndividual differences Interventions Poverty Preschool children Executive functions
Article
Growing up in poverty is associated with a heightened risk for mental and physical health problems across the life span, and there is a growing recognition of the role that social determinants of health play in driving these outcomes and inequities. How do the social conditions of poverty get under the skin to influence biology, and through what mechanisms do the stressors of poverty generate risk for a broad range of health problems? The growing field examining the neuroscience of socioeconomic status (SES) proposes that the brain is an entry point or pathway through which poverty and adversity become embedded in biology to generate these disparities. To date, however, the majority of research on the neuroscience of SES has focused on cognitive or executive control processes. However, the relationship between SES and brain systems involved in affective or emotional processes may be especially important for understanding social determinants of health. Accordingly, this Special Focus on The Affective Neuroscience of Poverty invited contributions from authors examining the relationship between SES and brain systems involved in generating and regulating emotions. In this editorial introduction, we (a) provide an overview of the neuroscience of SES; (b) introduce each of the articles in this Special Focus; and (c) discuss the scientific, treatment, and policy implications of studying the affective neuroscience of poverty.
Article
Importance: Exposure to early-life adversity alters the structural development of key brain regions underlying neurodevelopmental impairments. The association between prenatal exposure to adversity and brain structure at birth remains poorly understood. Objective: To examine whether prenatal exposure to maternal social disadvantage and psychosocial stress is associated with neonatal global and regional brain volumes and cortical folding. Design, setting, and participants: This prospective, longitudinal cohort study included 399 mother-infant dyads of sociodemographically diverse mothers recruited in the first or early second trimester of pregnancy and their infants, who underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging in the first weeks of life. Mothers were recruited from local obstetric clinics in St Louis, Missouri from September 1, 2017, to February 28, 2020. Exposures: Maternal social disadvantage and psychosocial stress in pregnancy. Main outcomes and measures: Confirmatory factor analyses were used to create latent constructs of maternal social disadvantage (income-to-needs ratio, Area Deprivation Index, Healthy Eating Index, educational level, and insurance status) and psychosocial stress (Perceived Stress Scale, Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, Everyday Discrimination Scale, and Stress and Adversity Inventory). Neonatal cortical and subcortical gray matter, white matter, cerebellum, hippocampus, and amygdala volumes were generated using semiautomated, age-specific, segmentation pipelines. Results: A total of 280 mothers (mean [SD] age, 29.1 [5.3] years; 170 [60.7%] Black or African American, 100 [35.7%] White, and 10 [3.6%] other race or ethnicity) and their healthy, term-born infants (149 [53.2%] male; mean [SD] infant gestational age, 38.6 [1.0] weeks) were included in the analysis. After covariate adjustment and multiple comparisons correction, greater social disadvantage was associated with reduced cortical gray matter (unstandardized β = -2.0; 95% CI, -3.5 to -0.5; P = .01), subcortical gray matter (unstandardized β = -0.4; 95% CI, -0.7 to -0.2; P = .003), and white matter (unstandardized β = -5.5; 95% CI, -7.8 to -3.3; P < .001) volumes and cortical folding (unstandardized β = -0.03; 95% CI, -0.04 to -0.01; P < .001). Psychosocial stress showed no association with brain metrics. Although social disadvantage accounted for an additional 2.3% of the variance of the left hippocampus (unstandardized β = -0.03; 95% CI, -0.05 to -0.01), 2.3% of the right hippocampus (unstandardized β = -0.03; 95% CI, -0.05 to -0.01), 3.1% of the left amygdala (unstandardized β = -0.02; 95% CI, -0.03 to -0.01), and 2.9% of the right amygdala (unstandardized β = -0.02; 95% CI, -0.03 to -0.01), no regional effects were found after accounting for total brain volume. Conclusions and relevance: In this baseline assessment of an ongoing cohort study, prenatal social disadvantage was associated with global reductions in brain volumes and cortical folding at birth. No regional specificity for the hippocampus or amygdala was detected. Results highlight that associations between poverty and brain development begin in utero and are evident early in life. These findings emphasize that preventive interventions that support fetal brain development should address parental socioeconomic hardships.
Article
Childhood economic disadvantage is associated with lower cognitive and social-emotional skills, reduced educational attainment, and lower earnings in adulthood. Despite these robust correlations, it is unclear whether family income is the cause of differences observed between children growing up in poverty and their more fortunate peers or whether these differences are merely due to the many other aspects of family life that co-occur with poverty. Baby's First Years is the first randomized controlled trial in the United States designed to identify the causal impact of poverty reduction on children's early development. A total of 1000 low-income mothers of newborns were enrolled in the study and began receiving a monthly unconditional cash gift for the first several years of their children's lives. Mothers were randomly assigned to receive either a large monthly cash gift or a nominal monthly cash gift. All monthly gifts are administered via debit card and can be freely spent with no restrictions. Baby's First Years aims to answer whether poverty reduction in early childhood (1) improves children's developmental outcomes and promotes healthier brain functioning, and (2) improves family functioning and better enables parents to support child development. Here we present the rationale and design of the study as well as potential implications for science and policy.
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Este ensayo se ha realizado porque se ha registrado un intenso impacto de la pandemia en la educación y, particularmente, en la equidad educativa. Trata acerca de cómo las brechas socioeconómicas perjudican la equidad, la calidad y el rendimiento educativos. Pretende reflexionar sobre la situación del sistema educativo costarricense e internacional antes y durante la pandemia por la enfermedad del covid-19. Se concentra en la forma en que esta crisis influye en las brechas educativas preexistentes de acuerdo con la condición socioeconómica de las personas, para ello se revisan resultados de investigación socioeconómica y sociocognitiva reciente (primordialmente de los últimos 10 años). En primer lugar, se analiza la situación de la desigualdad educativa anterior a la pandemia, luego se identifica un conjunto de factores que permiten comprender las brechas socioeducativas relacionadas con el rendimiento académico y se presenta el caso de los resultados de las pruebas de bachillerato según la condición socioeconómica de estudiantes como un reflejo de tales brechas en el caso costarricense. En segundo lugar, se indaga acerca del impacto de la pandemia en la educación. Finalmente se ofrecen algunas reflexiones concluyentes, basadas en la información recopilada y analizada. Se propone que la actual crisis pandémica ampliará las brechas socioeducativas preexistentes, pues el estudiantado y las familias en pobreza y con carencia de recursos cuentan con condiciones materiales y personales insuficientes para enfrentarla y evitar un creciente rezago educativo.
Article
Представлены результаты пилотного исследования взаимосвязи индивидуально-психологических характеристик темперамента, проблемного использования Интернета и субъективного психологического благополучия, полученные на выборке (N = 90) московских подростков и молодежи 15 25 лет (М = 18,3. SD = 2,93. Мо = 16,00). Результаты согласуются с данными современных междисциплинарных исследований: некоторые индивидуально-психологические особенности структуры темперамента (temperament traits), как продукт сложного генотип-средового взаимодействия, можно рассматривать в качестве прогностических факторов, влияющих на формирование проблемного использования интернета и на субъективное восприятие психологического благополучия. Полученные корреляции между индивидуальными чертами темперамента (в сферах активности, аффективности и саморегуляции), проблемным использованием интернета и субъективным психологическим благополучием могут быть полезны при разработке рекомендаций «здорового» использования ресурсов интернета («healthy internet use») и для решения практических задач профилактики снижения физической активности у современных «цифровых» подростков.
Article
The spatiotemporal group-level patterns of brain macrostructural development are relatively well-documented. Current research emphasizes individual variability in brain development, including its causes and consequences. While genetic factors and pre- and perinatal events play critical roles, calls are now made to also study brain development in transactional interplay with the different aspects of an individual’s physical and social environment. Such focus is highly relevant for research on adolescence, a period involving a multitude of contextual changes paralleled by continued refinement of complex cognitive and affective neural systems. Here, we discuss associations between selected aspects of an individual’s physical and social environment and adolescent brain structural development, and possible links to mental health. We also touch on methodological considerations for future research.
Thesis
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Los procesos autorregulatorios se encuentran vinculados al sostenimiento de conductas, pensamientos y emociones dirigidos a fines a lo largo del tiempo y en diversos contextos (Bailey y Jones, 2019). Entre los procesos autorregulatorios que mayor atención han recibido en la literatura de interés, se encuentran los procesos atencionales, las funciones ejecutivas (control inhibitorio, flexibilidad cognitiva, planificación) y temperamentales (e.g. afecto negativo, esfuerzo de control). El desarrollo de estos procesos se suele asociar con medidas de desarrollo infantil tales como el desempeño académico (Green y Newcombe, 2020) así como también con la exposición a experiencias tempranas de adversidad (Bradley, 2020; Johnson et al., 2016; Roy y Raver, 2014; Shonkoff et al., 2012).De esta manera, investigadores/as de los campos de la psicología y de la neurociencia cognitiva del desarrollo, se han dedicado a identificar los efectos de la pobreza a nivel cognitivo, conductual y emocional, así como también los mecanismos mediadores de dicho efecto (Lipina, 2017). La evidencia en cuestión plantea que, durante las dos primeras décadas de vida, el nivel socioeconómico puede asociarse con diferentes aspectos del desarrollo cognitivo, emocional y del lenguaje. Además, dicha asociación podría tener implicancia en otras medidas del desarrollo de los/as niños/as tales como el desempeño académico.A partir de consideraciones respecto del desarrollo de los/as niños/as que viven en contextos de pobreza, diferentes grupos de investigación se han dedicado a generar propuesta de intervención cognitiva orientadas a promover el desarrollo de distintos procesos cognitivos. Sin embargo, dichas intervenciones muestran diferencias de eficacia en sus resultados. Estas diferencias se relacionan con el tamaño del efecto de los resultados de las intervenciones, el mantenimiento de los efectos a largo plazo y la falta de evidencia de su transferencia a procesos no entrenados (Diamond y Ling, 2016; Scionti et al., 2020).La literatura actual plantea que las limitaciones en el impacto de las intervenciones podrían estar vinculadas con diferencias inter- e intra- individuales en las poblaciones estudiadas. Diversos autores/as marcan la necesidad de comenzar a considerar los efectos que generan diferentes tipos de intervenciones en distintas poblaciones y grupos de niños/as (Diamond y Ling, 2016; Karbach et al., 2017; Katz et al., 2016; Scionti et al., 2020).El interés de la presente tesis reside en estudiar el rol de las diferencias individuales de los/as niños/as en el impacto de las intervenciones. En distintos trabajos con muestras sin vulnerabilidad social, se abordó la asociación entre el desempeño basal de los/as niños/as y los efectos de la intervención. En algunos casos, los/as niños/as que más se beneficiaron de las intervenciones fueron aquellos/as que tuvieron desempeños cognitivos más bajos al comienzo de la intervención mientras que en otros casos fueron quienes comenzaron con desempeños más altos. A pesar de dicha evidencia, en la literatura del área no se han incorporado estas diferencias en el diseño de intervenciones. En algunos casos, se han generado diseños enfocados a brindar un determinado programa de intervención a todos los participantes sin considerar la variabilidad individual entre ellos/as (Katz et al., 2016), mientras que en otros casos se utilizaron algoritmos adaptativos que modifican la dificultad de las actividades a medida que los/as participantes las realizan correctamente (Goldin et al., 2013, 2014). Sin embargo, estas diferencias individuales podrían ser consideradas desde el diseño mismo de las actividades, planteando criterios de avance no solo adaptativos, sino también individualizados de acuerdo a las necesidades de cada participante.A partir de dicha evidencia, en el presente trabajo se busca explorar el impacto de una intervención cognitiva computarizada e individualizada en niños/as de edad preescolar provenientes de hogares con pobreza. Desde el diseño, se incorpora la consideración de diferencias individuales en el desempeño cognitivo en diferentes tareas con demanda autorregulatoria en la fase previa a su implementación. El estudio se realizó en un jardín de infantes de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires durante los años 2017 y 2018. Los/as niños/as se distribuyeron en dos condiciones experimentales (control e intervención) y en grupos de alto y bajo desempeño de acuerdo al desempeño cognitivo basal en diferentes tareas con demanda autorregulatoria. A partir de las características específicas dichos grupos, se generaron diferentes menús de intervención.Los resultados mostraron que los/as niños/as en el grupo intervención mostraron mayores cambios relacionados con la intervención en tareas con demanda de control inhibitorio, atención, planificación y razonamiento fluido. Además, estos cambios en el grupo INT fueron diferentes para los distintos grupos de desempeño. En algunos casos, los/as niños/as con menores desempeños basales fueron quienes mostraron mayores cambios luego de realizar las actividades de intervención mientras que en otros casos fueron los/as niños con mayores niveles de desempeño basal. Finalmente, las trayectorias desarrolladas por los/as niños/as durante la realización de las actividades de intervención mostraron un carácter heterogéneo donde, incluso partiendo de grupos con cierta homogeneidad basal, no todos/as los/as niños/as mostraron cambios luego de participar de las actividades de intervención. Estos resultados podrían brindar nueva evidencia para mejorar el diseño de futuras intervenciones orientadas a promover el desarrollo de procesos autorregulatorios en niños y niñas que viven en contextos de pobreza.
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Socioeconomic disadvantage during childhood is associated with a myriad of negative adult outcomes. One mechanism through which disadvantage undermines positive outcomes may be by disrupting the development of self-control. The goal of the present study was to examine pathways from three key indicators of socioeconomic disadvantage - low family income, low maternal education, and neighborhood poverty - to neural and behavioral measures of response inhibition. We utilized data from a representative cohort of 215 twins (ages 7-18 years, 70% male) oversampled for exposure to disadvantage, who participated in the Michigan Twins Neurogenetics Study (MTwiNS), a study within the Michigan State University Twin Registry (MSUTR). Our child-friendly Go/No-Go task activated the bilateral inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), and activation during this task predicted behavioral inhibition performance, extending prior work on adults to youth. Critically, we also found that neighborhood poverty, assessed via geocoding, but not family income or maternal education, was associated with IFG activation, a finding that we replicated in an independent sample of disadvantaged youth. Further, we found that neighborhood poverty predicted response inhibition performance via its effect on IFG activation. These results provide the first mechanistic evidence that disadvantaged contexts may undermine self-control via their effect on the brain. The broader neighborhood, beyond familial contexts, may be critically important for this association, suggesting that contexts beyond the home have profound effects on the developing brain and behaviors critical for future health, wealth, and wellbeing.
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The two best predictors of children’s educational achievement available from birth are parents’ socioeconomic status (SES) and, recently, children’s inherited DNA differences that can be aggregated in genome‐wide polygenic scores (GPS). Here we chart for the first time the developmental interplay between these two predictors of educational achievement at ages 7, 11, 14 and 16 in a sample of almost 5,000 UK school children. We show that the prediction of educational achievement from both GPS and SES increases steadily throughout the school years. Using latent growth curve models, we find that GPS and SES not only predict educational achievement in the first grade but they also account for systematic changes in achievement across the school years. At the end of compulsory education at age 16, GPS and SES respectively predict 14% and 23% of the variance of educational achievement. Analyses of the extremes of GPS and SES highlight their influence and interplay: In children who have high GPS and come from high SES families, 77% go to university, whereas 21% of children with low GPS and from low SES backgrounds attend university. We find that the associations of GPS and SES with educational achievement are primarily additive, suggesting that their joint influence is particularly dramatic for children at the extreme ends of the distribution.
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Although lower socioeconomic status (SES) is generally negatively associated with performance on cognitive assessments, some children from lower-SES backgrounds perform as well as their peers from higher-SES backgrounds. Yet little research has examined whether the neural correlates of individual differences in cognition vary by SES. The current study explored whether relationships between cortical structure and fluid reasoning differ by SES in development. Fluid reasoning, a non-verbal component of IQ, is supported by a distributed frontoparietal network, with evidence for a specific role of rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (RLPFC). In a sample of 115 4-7-year old children, bilateral thickness of RLPFC differentially related to reasoning by SES: thicker bilateral RLPFC positively correlated with reasoning ability in children from lower-SES backgrounds, but not in children from higher-SES backgrounds. Similar results were found in an independent sample of 59 12-16-year old adolescents. Furthermore, young children from lower-SES backgrounds with strong reasoning skills were the only group to show a positive relationship between RLPFC thickness and age. In sum, we found that relationships between cortical thickness and cognition differ by SES during development.
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Despite common notion that the correlation of socioeconomic status with child cognitive performance may be driven by both environmentally- and genetically-mediated transactional pathways, there is a lack of longitudinal and genetically informed research that examines these postulated associations. The present study addresses whether family income predicts associative memory growth and hippocampal development in middle childhood and tests whether these associations persist when controlling for DNA-based polygenic scores of educational attainment. Participants were 142 6-to-7-year-old children, of which 127 returned when they were 8-to-9 years old. Longitudinal analyses indicated that the association of family income with children's memory performance and hippocampal volume remained stable over this age range and did not predict change. On average, children from economically disadvantaged background showed lower memory performance and had a smaller hippocampal volume. There was no evidence to suggest that differences in memory performance were mediated by differences in hippocampal volume. Further exploratory results suggested that the relationship of income with hippocampal volume and memory in middle childhood is not primarily driven by genetic variance captured by polygenic scores of educational attainment, despite the fact that polygenic scores significantly predicted family income.
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Low socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with a higher probability of multiple exposures (e.g., neighborhood violence, poor nutrition, housing instability, air pollution, and insensitive caregiving) known to affect structural development of subcortical brain regions that subserve threat and reward processing, however, few studies have examined the relationship between SES and such subcortical structures in adolescents. We examined SES variations in volume and surface morphometry of subcortical regions. The sample comprised 256 youth in eighth grade (mean age = 13.9 years), in whom high dimensional deformation mapping of structural 3T magnetic resonance imaging scans was performed. Vertex‐wise linear regression analyses examined associations between income to poverty ratio and surfaces of the hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, caudate, putamen, nucleus accumbens and pallidum, with the covariates age, pubertal status, and intracranial volume. Given sex differences in pubertal development and subcortical maturation at this age, the analyses were stratified by sex. Among males, who at this age average an earlier pubertal stage than females, the relationship between SES and local shape variation in subcortical regions was almost entirely positive. For females, the relationship between SES and local shape variation was negative. Racial identity was associated with SES in our sample, however supplementary analyses indicated that most of the associations between SES and subcortical structure were independent of it. Although these cross‐sectional results are not definitive, they are consistent with a scenario where low SES delays structural maturation of subcortical regions involved with threat and reward processing. Future longitudinal studies are needed to test this hypothesis.
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The processing of emotional facial expressions is important for social functioning and is influenced by environmental factors, including early environmental experiences. Low socio-economic status (SES) is associated with greater exposure to uncontrollable stressors, including violence, as well as deprivation, defined as a lack or decreased complexity of expected environmental input. The current study examined amygdala and fusiform gyrus response to facial expressions in 207 early adolescents (mean age = 13.93 years, 63.3% female). Participants viewed faces displaying varying intensities of angry and happy faces during functional MRI. SES was assessed using the income-to-needs ratio (INR) and a measure of subjective social status. Cumulative exposure to violence was also assessed. When considered in isolation, only violence exposure was associated with heightened amygdala response to angry faces. When considered jointly, violence exposure and lower INR were both associated with increased amygdala response to angry faces and interacted, such that lower INR was associated with increased amygdala reactivity to anger only in those youth reporting no exposure to violence. This pattern of findings raises the possibility that greater amygdala reactivity to threat cues in children raised in low-SES conditions may arise from different factors associated with an economically-deprived environment.
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Higher socioeconomic status (SES) in childhood is associated with stronger cognitive abilities, higher academic achievement, and lower incidence of mental illness later in development. While prior work has mapped the associations between neighborhood SES and brain structure, little is known about the relationship between SES and intrinsic neural dynamics. Here, we capitalize upon a large cross-sectional community-based sample (Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort, ages 8-22 years, n = 1012) to examine associations between age, SES, and functional brain network topology. We characterize this topology using a local measure of network segregation known as the clustering coefficient and find that it accounts for a greater degree of SES-associated variance than mesoscale segregation captured by modularity. High-SES youth displayed stronger positive associations between age and clustering than low-SES youth, and this effect was most pronounced for regions in the limbic, somatomotor, and ventral attention systems. The moderating effect of SES on positive associations between age and clustering was strongest for connections of intermediate length and was consistent with a stronger negative relationship between age and local connectivity in these regions in low-SES youth. Our findings suggest that, in late childhood and adolescence, neighborhood SES is associated with variation in the development of functional network structure in the human brain.
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Background: Socioeconomic factors have been consistently linked with the structure of children's hippocampus and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Chronic stress-as indexed by hair cortisol concentration-may represent an important mechanism underlying these associations. Here, we examined associations between hair cortisol and children's hippocampal and ACC structure, including across hippocampal subfields, and whether hair cortisol mediated associations between socioeconomic background (family income-to-needs ratio, parental education) and the structure of these brain regions. Methods: Participants were 5- to 9-year-old children (N = 94; 61% female) from socioeconomically diverse families. Parents and children provided hair samples that were assayed for cortisol. High-resolution, T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging scans were acquired, and FreeSurfer 6.0 was used to compute hippocampal volume and rostral and caudal ACC thickness and surface area (n = 37 with both child hair cortisol and magnetic resonance imaging data; n = 41 with both parent hair cortisol and magnetic resonance imaging data). Results: Higher hair cortisol concentration was significantly associated with smaller CA3 and dentate gyrus hippocampal subfield volumes but not with CA1 or subiculum volume. Higher hair cortisol was also associated with greater caudal ACC thickness. Hair cortisol significantly mediated associations between parental education level and CA3 and dentate gyrus volumes; lower parental education level was associated with higher hair cortisol, which in turn was associated with smaller volume in these subfields. Conclusions: These findings point to chronic physiologic stress as a potential mechanism through which lower parental education level leads to reduced hippocampal volume. Hair cortisol concentration may be an informative biomarker leading to more effective prevention and intervention strategies aimed at childhood socioeconomic disadvantage.
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The mechanisms underlying socioeconomic disparities in children's reading skills are not well understood. This study examined associations among socioeconomic background, home linguistic input, brain structure, and reading skills in 5‐to‐9‐year‐old children (N = 94). Naturalistic home audio recordings and high‐resolution, T1‐weighted MRI scans were acquired. Children who experienced more adult–child conversational turns or adult words had greater left perisylvian cortical surface area. Language input mediated the association between parental education and left perisylvian cortical surface area. Language input was indirectly associated with children's reading skills via left perisylvian surface area. Left perisylvian surface area mediated the association between parental education and children's reading skills. Language experience may thus partially explain socioeconomic disparities in language‐supporting brain structure and in turn reading skills.
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Family socioeconomic status (SES) is an important factor that affects an individual’s neural and cognitive development. The two novel aims of this study were to reveal (a) the effects of family SES on mean diffusivity (MD) using diffusion tensor imaging given the characteristic property of MD to reflect neural plasticity and development and (b) the sex differences in SES effects. In a study cohort of 1,216 normal young adults, we failed to find significant main effects of family SES on MD; however, previously observed main effects of family SES on regional gray matter volume and fractional anisotropy (FA) were partly replicated. We found a significant effect of the interaction between sex and family income on MD in the thalamus as well as significant effects of the interaction between sex and parents’ educational qualification (year’s of education) on MD and FA in the body of the corpus callosum as well as white matter areas between the anterior cingulate cortex and lateral prefrontal cortex. These results suggest the sex-specific associations of family SES with neural and/or cognitive mechanisms particularly in neural tissues in brain areas that play key roles in basic information processing and higher-order cognitive processes in a way females with greater family SES level show imaging outcome measures that have been associated with more neural tissues (such as greater FA and lower MD) and males showed opposite.
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Childhood socioeconomic status (SES) impacts cognitive development and mental health, but its association with human structural brain development is not yet well characterized. Here, we analyzed 1243 longitudinally acquired structural MRI scans from 623 youth (299 female/324 male) to investigate the relation between SES and cortical and subcortical morphology between ages 5 and 25 years. We found positive associations between SES and total volumes of the brain, cortical sheet, and four separate subcortical structures. These associations were stable between ages 5 and 25. Surface-based shape analysis revealed that higher SES is associated with areal expansion of lateral prefrontal, anterior cingulate, lateral temporal, and superior parietal cortices and ventrolateral thalamic, and medial amygdalo-hippocampal subregions. Meta-analyses of functional imaging data indicate that cortical correlates of SES are centered on brain systems subserving sensorimotor functions, language, memory, and emotional processing. We further show that anatomical variation within a subset of these cortical regions partially mediates the positive association between SES and IQ. Finally, we identify neuroanatomical correlates of SES that exist above and beyond accompanying variation in IQ. Although SES is clearly a complex construct that likely relates to development through diverse, nondeterministic processes, our findings elucidate potential neuroanatomical mediators of the association between SES and cognitive outcomes.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Childhood socioeconomic status (SES) has been associated with developmental disparities in mental health, cognitive ability, and academic achievement, but efforts to understand underlying SES-brain relationships are ongoing. Here, we leverage a unique developmental neuroimaging dataset to longitudinally map the associations between SES and regional brain anatomy at high spatiotemporal resolution. We find widespread associations between SES and global cortical and subcortical volumes and surface area and localize these correlations to a distributed set of cortical, thalamic, and amygdalo-hippocampal subregions. Anatomical variation within a subset of these regions partially mediates the positive relationship between SES and IQ. Our findings help to localize cortical and subcortical systems that represent candidate biological substrates for the known relationships between SES and cognition.
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Prior research indicates that socioeconomic disadvantage is associated with prefrontal cortical (PFC) development in childhood and adolescence, however the mechanisms of this link are unclear. This study investigated whether DNA methylation of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF, which plays a key role in synaptic plasticity), mediated the association between neighborhood disadvantage and thickness of the PFC in adolescents. Neighborhood disadvantage was measured in 33 adolescents aged 12-13 years using the Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas. Buccal swabs, collected during mid-adolescence (aged 16-18 years), enabled BDNF DNA methylation of the widely studied exon IV promoter region to be measured. Cortical thickness was assessed during late-adolescence (aged 18-20 years) via T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A significant negative association between disadvantage and BDNF DNA methylation at a specific site of the exon IV promoter was identified. Lower levels of methylation were also significantly associated with greater thickness of the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (lOFC), and right medial OFC. Lower levels of DNA methylation at this site also mediated associations between higher disadvantage and thinner bilateral lOFC thickness. These novel findings give insight into a potential biological mechanism that could further our understanding as to why brain development is affected by varying environmental exposures.
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Socioeconomic disadvantage is associated with higher rates of psychopathology as well as hippocampus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex structure. However, little is known about how variations in brain morphometry are associated with socio-emotional risks for mood disorders in children growing up in families experiencing low income. In the current study, using structural magnetic resonance imaging, we examined the relationship between socioeconomic disadvantage and gray matter volume in the hippocampus, amygdala, and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex in a sample of children (n = 34) in middle childhood. Using an affective dot probe paradigm, we examined the association between gray matter volume in these regions and attentional bias to threat, a risk marker for mood disorders including anxiety disorders. We found that lower income-to-needs ratio was associated with lower bilateral hippocampal and right amygdala volume, but not prefrontal cortex volumes. Moreover, lower attentional bias to threat was associated with greater left hippocampal volume. We provide evidence of a relationship between income-related variations in brain structure and attentional bias to threat, a risk for mood disorders. Therefore, these findings support an environment-morphometry-behavior relationship that contributes to the understanding of income-related mental health disparities in childhood.
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Robust evidence of the deleterious effects of poverty on children's academic achievement has generated considerable interest in the neural mechanisms underlying these associations. In studies of specific neu-rocognitive skills, researchers have found pronounced socioeconomic disparities in children's language and executive function (EF) skills. In this article, we review research linking socioeconomic factors (e.g., family income, parental education) with children's brain structure and function, focusing on the neural systems involved in language and EF. Then, we cover the potential mediators of these associations, developmental timing, and strategies for prevention and intervention. To complement research at the behavioral level, we conclude with recommendations for integrating measures of the developing brain into this ongoing work.
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Reading is a learned skill crucial for educational attainment. Children from families of lower socioeconomic status (SES) tend to have poorer reading outcomes and this gap widens across years of schooling. Reading relies on the orchestration of multiple neural systems integrated via specific white-matter pathways, but there is limited understanding about whether these pathways relate differentially to reading performance depending on SES background. Kindergarten white-matter FA and second-grade reading outcomes were investigated in an SES-diverse sample of 125 children. The three left-hemisphere white-matter tracts most associated with reading, and their right-hemisphere homologs, were examined: arcuate fasciculus (AF), superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF), and inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF). There was a significant and positive association between SES and fractional anisotropy (FA) in the bilateral ILF in kindergarten. SES moderated the association between kindergarten ILF and second grade reading performance, such that it was positive in lower-SES children, but not significant in higher-SES children. These results have implications for understanding the role of the environment in the development of the neural pathways that support reading.
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Neuroscience research has elucidated broad relationships between socioeconomic status (SES) and young children’s brain structure, but there is little mechanistic knowledge about specific environmental factors that are associated with specific variation in brain structure. One environmental factor, early language exposure, predicts children’s linguistic and cognitive skills and later academic achievement, but how language exposure relates to neuroanatomy is unknown. By measuring the real-world language exposure of young children (ages 4-6 years, 27 male/13 female), we confirmed the preregistered hypothesis that greater adult-child conversational experience, independent of SES and the sheer amount of adult speech, is related to stronger, more coherent white matter connectivity in the left arcuate and superior longitudinal fasciculi on average, and specifically near their anterior termination at Broca’s area in left inferior frontal cortex. Fractional anisotropy of significant tract sub-regions mediated the relationship between conversational turns and children’s language skills and indicated a neuroanatomical mechanism underlying the SES “language gap.” Post-hoc whole-brain analyses revealed that language exposure was not related to any other white matter tracts, indicating the specificity of this relationship. Results suggest that the development of dorsal language tracts is environmentally influenced, specifically by early, dialogic interaction. Furthermore, these findings raise the possibility that early intervention programs aiming to ameliorate disadvantages in development due to family SES may focus on increasing children’s conversational exposure in order to capitalize on the early neural plasticity underlying cognitive development.
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Children from lower-SES families exhibit smaller hippocampal volume than do their higher-SES peers. Few studies, however, have compared hippocampal developmental trajectories as a function of SES. Thus, it is unclear whether initial rank-order stability is preserved, or whether volumes diverge/converge over the course of adolescence. In a sample of 101 girls ages 10-24 years, we examined the longitudinal association between family income and parental education, proxies for SES, and changes in hippocampal volume. Hippocampal volume was obtained using MRI; using mixed modeling, we examined the effects of income and education on hippocampal volume across age. As expected, changes in volume were non-linear across development. Further, trajectories diverged in mid-adolescence, with lower-income girls exhibiting reductions in hippocampal volume. Maximal income-related differences were observed at 18 years, and trajectories converged thereafter. This interaction remained significant when accounting for maternal hippocampal volume, suggesting a unique contribution of environment over potential heritable differences. In contrast, the association between parental education and offspring hippocampal volume appeared to be stable across adolescence, with higher levels of parental education predicting consistently larger hippocampal volume. These findings constitute preliminary evidence that girls from lower-income homes exhibit unique trajectories of hippocampal growth, with differences most evident in late adolescence.
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Children's early language exposure impacts their later linguistic skills, cognitive abilities, and academic achievement, and large disparities in language exposure are associated with family socioeconomic status (SES). However, there is little evidence about the neural mechanism(s) underlying the relation between language experience and linguistic/cognitive development. Here, language experience was measured from home audio recordings of 36 SES-diverse 4-6 year-old children. During a story-listening fMRI task, children who had experienced more conversational turns with adults-independent of SES, IQ, and adult/child utterances alone-exhibited greater left inferior frontal (Broca's area) activation, which significantly explained the relation between children's language exposure and verbal skill. This is the first evidence directly relating children's language environments with neural language processing, specifying both environmental and neural mechanisms underlying SES disparities in children's language skills. Furthermore, results suggest that conversational experience impacts neural language processing over and above SES and/or the sheer quantity of words heard.
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Family income is associated with gray matter morphometry in children, but little is known about the relationship between family income and white matter structure. In this paper, using Tract-Based Spatial Statistics, a whole brain, voxel-wise approach, we examined the relationship between family income (assessed by income-to-needs ratio) and white matter organization in middle childhood (N = 27, M = 8.66 years). Results from a non-parametric, voxel-wise, multiple regression (threshold-free cluster enhancement, p < 0.05 FWE corrected) indicated that lower family income was associated with lower white matter organization [assessed by fractional anisotropy (FA)] for several clusters in white matter tracts involved in cognitive and emotional functions including fronto-limbic circuitry (uncinate fasciculus and cingulum bundle), association fibers (inferior longitudinal fasciculus, superior longitudinal fasciculus), and corticospinal tracts. Further, we examined the possibility that cumulative risk (CR) exposure might function as one of the potential pathways by which family income influences neural outcomes. Using multiple regressions, we found lower FA in portions of these tracts, including those found in the left cingulum bundle and left superior longitudinal fasciculus, was significantly related to greater exposure to CR (β = -0.47, p < 0.05 and β = -0.45, p < 0.05).
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Importance The negative effects of socioeconomic disadvantage on lifelong functioning are pronounced, with some evidence suggesting that these effects are mediated by changes in brain development. To our knowledge, no research has investigated whether parenting might buffer these negative effects. Objective To establish whether positive parenting behaviors moderate the effects of socioeconomic disadvantage on brain development and adaptive functioning in adolescents. Design, Setting, and Participants In this longitudinal study of adolescents from schools in Melbourne, Australia, data were collected at 3 assessments between 2004 and 2012. Data were analyzed between August 2016 and April 2017. Exposures Both family (parental income-to-needs, occupation, and education level) and neighborhood measures of socioeconomic disadvantage were assessed. Positive maternal parenting behaviors were observed during interactions in early adolescence. Main Outcomes and Measures Structural magnetic resonance imaging scans at 3 times (early, middle, and late adolescence) from ages 11 to 20 years. Global and academic functioning was assessed during late adolescence. We used linear mixed models to examine the effect of family and neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage as well as the moderating effect of positive parenting on adolescent brain development. We used mediation models to examine whether brain developmental trajectories predicted functional outcomes during late adolescence. Results Of the included 166 adolescents, 86 (51.8%) were male. We found that neighborhood, but not family, socioeconomic disadvantage was associated with altered brain development from early (mean [SD] age, 12.79 [0.425] years) to late (mean [SD] age, 19.08 [0.460] years) adolescence, predominantly in the temporal lobes (temporal cortex: random field theory corrected; left amygdala: B, −0.237; P < .001; right amygdala: B, −0.209; P = .008). Additionally, positive parenting moderated the effects of neighborhood disadvantage on the development of dorsal frontal and lateral orbitofrontal cortices as well as the effects of family disadvantage on the development of the amygdala (occupation: B, 0.382; P = .004; income-to-needs: B, 27.741; P = .004), with some male-specific findings. The pattern of dorsal frontal cortical development in males from disadvantaged neighborhoods exposed to low maternal positivity predicted increased rates of school noncompletion (indirect effect, −0.018; SE, 0.01; 95% CI, −0.053 to −0.001). Conclusions and Relevance Our findings highlight the importance of neighborhood disadvantage in influencing brain developmental trajectories. Further, to our knowledge, we present the first evidence that positive maternal parenting might ameliorate the negative effects of socioeconomic disadvantage on frontal lobe development (with implications for functioning) during adolescence. Results have relevance for designing interventions for children from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.
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The associations among socioeconomic disadvantage, amygdala volume, and internalizing symptoms in children and adolescents are unclear and understudied in the extant literature. In this study, we examined associations between socioeconomic status (SES) and amygdala volume by age across childhood and adolescence to test whether socioeconomic disadvantage would be associated with larger amygdala volume at younger ages but with smaller amygdala volume at older ages. We then examined whether SES and amygdala volume were associated with children’s levels of anxiety and depression. Participants were 3- to 21-year-olds from the Pediatric Imaging, Neurocognition, and Genetics study (N = 1,196), which included structural magnetic resonance imaging. A subsample (n = 327; 7–21 years of age) completed self-report measures of anxiety and depression. Lower family income and parental education were significantly associated with smaller amygdala volume in adolescence (13–21 years) but not significantly associated with amygdala volume at younger ages (3–12 years). Lower parental education, but not family income, was significantly associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression, even after accounting for family history of anxiety/depression. Smaller amygdala volume was significantly associated with higher levels of depression, even after accounting for parental education and family history of anxiety/depression. These findings suggest that associations between SES and amygdala structure may vary by age. In addition, smaller amygdala volume may be linked with an increased risk for depression in children and adolescents.
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Recent findings indicate robust associations between socioeconomic status (SES) and brain structure in children, raising questions about the ways in which SES may modify structural brain development. In general, cortical thickness and surface area develop in nonlinear patterns across childhood and adolescence, with developmental patterns varying to some degree by cortical region. Here, we examined whether age-related nonlinear changes in cortical thickness and surface area varied by SES, as indexed by family income and parental education. We hypothesized that SES disparities in age-related change may be particularly evident for language-and literacy-supporting cortical regions. Participants were 1148 typically-developing individuals between 3 and 20 years of age. Results indicated that SES factors moderate patterns of age-associated change in cortical thickness but not surface area. Specifically, at lower levels of SES, associations between age and cortical thickness were curvilinear, with relatively steep age-related decreases in cortical thickness earlier in childhood, and subsequent leveling off during adolescence. In contrast, at high levels of SES, associations between age and cortical thickness were linear, with consistent reductions across the age range studied. Notably, this interaction was prominent in the left fusi-form gyrus, a region that is critical for reading development. In a similar pattern, SES factors significantly moderated linear age-related change in left superior temporal gyrus, such that higher SES was linked with steeper age-related decreases in cortical thickness in this region. These findings suggest that SES may moderate patterns of age-related cortical thinning , especially in language-and literacy-supporting cortical regions.
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Converging evidence has highlighted the association between poverty and conduct disorder (CD) without specifying neurobiological pathways. Neuroimaging research has emphasized structural and functional alterations in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) as one key mechanism underlying this disorder. The present study aimed to clarify the long-term influence of early poverty on OFC volume and its association with CD symptoms in healthy participants of an epidemiological cohort study followed since birth. At age 25 years, voxel-based morphometry was applied to study brain volume differences. Poverty [0=non-exposed (N=134), 1=exposed (N=33)] and smoking during pregnancy were determined using a standardized parent interview, and information on maternal responsiveness was derived from videotaped mother-infant interactions at the age of 3 months. CD symptoms were assessed by diagnostic interview from 8-19 years of age. Information on life stress was acquired at each assessment and childhood maltreatment was measured using retrospective self-report at the age of 23 years. Analyses were adjusted for sex, parental psychopathology and delinquency, obstetric adversity, parental education and current poverty. Individuals exposed to early-life poverty exhibited a lower OFC volume and more CD symptoms. Moreover, we replicated previous findings of increased CD symptoms as a consequence of childhood poverty. This effect proved statistically mediated by OFC volume and exposure to life stress and smoking during pregnancy, but not by childhood maltreatment and maternal responsiveness. These findings underline the importance of studying the impact of early-life adversity on brain alterations and highlight the need for programs to decrease income-related disparities.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 15 October 2014. doi:10.1038/npp.2014.277.
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Socioeconomic status (SES) has been shown to influence language skills, with children of lower SES backgrounds performing worse on language assessments compared to their higher SES peers. While there is abundant behavioral research on the effects of SES, whether there are differences in the neural mechanisms used to support language skill is less established. In the current study, we examined the relation between maternal education (ME), a component of SES, and neural mechanisms of language. We focused on Kindergarten children, at the beginning of formal reading education, and on a pre‐reading skill, phonological awareness (PA) ‐ the ability to distinguish or manipulate the sounds of language. We determined ME‐related differences in neural activity by examining a skill‐matched sample of typically achieving 5‐year‐old children as they performed a rhyme judgement task. We examined brain lateralization in two language processing regions, the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and superior temporal gyrus (STG). In the IFG, lateralization was related to ME but not skill: children with low ME showed bilateral activation compared to children with higher ME who showed leftward lateralization. In the STG, there was a skill by ME interaction on lateralization, such that children with high ME showed a positive relation between rightward lateralization and skill and children with low ME showed a positive relation between leftward lateralization and skill. Thus, we demonstrated ME is related to differences in neural recruitment during language processing, yet this difference in recruitment is not indicative of a deficit in linguistic processing in Kindergarten children. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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Socioeconomic disadvantage is associated with atypical development in specific brain regions, yet the relation between poverty and whole brain network organization (i.e., the connectome, a set of brain regions connected with neuronal pathways) has not been characterized. Developmental studies indicate that the connectome undergoes rapid change during childhood and is consequently likely to be highly sensitive to both salutary and detrimental influences. We investigated associations between the socioeconomic disparities measured by the income-to-needs ratio (INR) in childhood and structural brain network organization with 144 healthy children between 6 and 11 years of age (mean age = 8 years). INR of girls was positively and logarithmically associated with the extent to which brain networks were efficiently organized, suggesting that girls in more impoverished environments had less efficient brain network organization. Lower INR was associated with network inefficiency in multiple cortical regions including prefrontal cortex, cingulate, and insula, and in subcortical regions including the hippocampus and amygdala. These findings suggest that childhood poverty may result in wide-spread disruptions of the brain connectome among girls, particularly at the lowest INR levels, and are differentially expressed in females and males.
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The ε4 allele of the APOE gene is associated with poorer cognition in later life. This study aimed to advance understanding of how environments potentially moderate this genetic risk by focusing on childhood socioeconomic status (SES). Previous research across diverse national contexts has found that older adults from higher-SES families in childhood demonstrate better cognitive functioning than their lower-SES counterparts. Nevertheless, few studies have examined whether higher childhood SES might also promote later life cognition by mitigating the effects of ε4 carrier status. To address this gap, we used data from 3017 participants in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which has followed a random sample of people who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957. Childhood SES included parents' educational attainment, father's occupational status, and household income in adolescence. We constructed measures of memory and of language/executive functioning using scores from neurocognitive tests administered when participants were approximately ages 65 and 72. APOE ε4 status was measured through saliva samples. Results from cross-controlled multilevel models indicated that APOE ε4 status-and not childhood SES-independently predicted memory, whereas childhood SES-and not APOE ε4 status-independently predicted language/executive functioning. Moreover, a statistical interaction between APOE ε4 status and childhood SES for memory indicated that at baseline, higher childhood SES protected against the risk of APOE ε4 status, whereas lower childhood SES exacerbated the risk of APOE ε4 status. However, by follow-up, these moderating effects dissipated, and APOE ε4 status alone was associated with memory. We interpret these results in light of theorizing on differential susceptibility for poorer cognition across the life course.
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Socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with health (physical and mental) and cognitive ability. Understanding and ameliorating the problems of low SES have long been goals of economics and sociology; in recent years, these have also become goals of neuroscience. However, opinion varies widely on the relevance of neuroscience to SES-related policy. The present article addresses the question of whether and how neuroscience can contribute to the development of social policy concerning poverty and the social and ethical risks inherent in trying. I argue that the neuroscience approach to SES-related policy has been both prematurely celebrated and peremptorily dismissed and that some of its possible social impacts have been viewed with excessive alarm. Neuroscience has already made modest contributions to SES-related policy, and its potential to have a more effective and beneficial influence can be expected to grow over the coming years.
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Socioeconomic disadvantage (SED) experienced in early life is linked to a range of risk behaviors and diseases. Neuroimaging research indicates that this association is mediated by functional changes in corticostriatal reward systems that modulate goal-directed behavior, reward evaluation, and affective processing. Existing research has focused largely on adults and within-household measures as an index of SED, despite evidence that broader community-level SED (e.g., neighborhood poverty levels) has significant and sometimes distinct effects on development and health outcomes. Here, we test effects of both household- and community-level SED on resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) of the ventral striatum (VS) in 100 racially and economically diverse children and adolescents (ages 6–17). We observed unique effects of household income and community SED on VS circuitry such that higher community SED was associated with reduced rsFC between the VS and an anterior