Associations between children’s socioeconomic status and prefrontal cortical thickness

Childhood socioeconomic status (SES) predicts executive function performance and measures of prefrontal cortical function, but little is known about its anatomical correlates. Structural MRI and demographic data from a sample of 283 healthy children from the NIH MRI Study of Normal Brain Development were used to investigate the relationship between SES and prefrontal cortical thickness. Specifically, we assessed the association between two principal measures of childhood SES, family income and parental education, and gray matter thickness in specific subregions of prefrontal cortex and on the asymmetry of these areas. After correcting for multiple comparisons and controlling for potentially confounding variables, parental education significantly predicted cortical thickness in the right anterior cingulate gyrus and left superior frontal gyrus. These results suggest that brain structure in frontal regions may provide a meaningful link between SES and cognitive function among healthy, typically developing children.

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Figure 1. Scatterplot of right anterior cingulate gyrus thickness and parental education. This scatterplot shows the association between the square-root transformed parental education variable and cortical thickness in the right anterior cingulate gyrus. Cortical thickness was adjusted for age, total brain volume, gender, IQ, BMI and race by using the standardized residuals from a model in which these variables predict thickness.

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Figure 2. Scatterplot of left superior frontal gyrus thickness and parental education. This scatterplot shows the association between the square-root transformed parental education variable and thickness in the left superior frontal gyrus. Cortical thickness was adjusted for age, total brain volume, gender, IQ, BMI and race by using the standardized residuals from a model in which these variables predict thickness.

  • G. M. Lawson, J. T. Duda, B. B. Avants, J. Wu, and M. J. Farah, “Associations between children’s socioeconomic status and prefrontal cortical thickness,” Developmental Science, 2013.
    [Bibtex]
    @ARTICLE{Lawson2013,
    author = {Lawson, Gwendolyn M and Duda, Jeffrey T and Avants, Brian B and Wu,
    Jue and Farah, Martha J},
    title = {{A}ssociations between children's socioeconomic status and prefrontal
    cortical thickness},
    journal = {{D}evelopmental {S}cience},
    year = {2013},
    owner = {jtduda},
    publisher = {Wiley Online Library},
    timestamp = {2013.08.09},
    url = {http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/desc.12096/full}
    }