This new study is a new argument pro helping parents and kids in low socioeconomic statuses when the kids are as young as possible as the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and brain anatomy seems to be mostly stable from childhood to early adulthood. So help those families and kids before they turn 5.
From the press release:
Cassidy McDermott, Armin Raznahan, and colleagues analyzed brain scans of the same individuals collected over time between five and 25 years of age. Comparing this data to parental education and occupation and each participants’ intelligence quotient (IQ) allowed the researchers to demonstrate positive associations between SES and the size and surface area of brain regions involved in cognitive functions such as learning, language, and emotions. In particular, this is the first study to associate greater childhood SES with larger volumes of two subcortical regions — the thalamus and striatum — thereby extending previous SES research that has focused on its relationship to the cortex.
Finally, the researchers identify brain regions underlying the relationship between SES and IQ. A better understanding of these relationships could clarify the processes by which SES becomes associated with a range of life outcomes, and ultimately inform efforts to minimize SES-related variation in health and achievement.
Abstract of the study:
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 sheetnd 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 (i) lateral prefrontalnterior cingulate, lateral temporalnd superior parietal cortices and (ii) ventrolateral thalamicnd medial amygdalo-hippocampal sub-regions. Meta-analyses of functional imaging data indicate that cortical correlates of SES are centered on brain systems subserving sensorimotor functions, language, memorynd 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. While SES is clearly a complex construct which likely relates to development through diverse, non-deterministic processes, our findings elucidate potential neuroanatomical mediators of the association between SES and cognitive outcomes.