This research seeks to understand the relations among socioeconomic status (SES), early life experience, and learning in adolescents. Previous research has shown that learning ability is positively correlated with SES, and preliminary studies suggest that the effects of childhood experience on hippocampal development may in part account for this. The present research will test hypotheses concerning the nature and causes of the SES disparity in learning ability by examining its scope and limits across different types of learning and different neural systems, and assessing its relation to early experience, including stress, stress-buffering parental nurturing and related constructs. The relation of these laboratory-based measures to student learning in school will also be investigated. The methods to be used include (a) behavioral tasks, developed within the multiple memory systems framework of cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience, to assess different forms of memory, (b) structural and functional neuroimaging studies of memory systems and (c) prospectively collected data on childhood experience and SES from a longitudinal study of adolescent participants. The relevance of this research to the mission of NIH lies in the crucial role played by learning in the academic, occupational and personal lives of all Americans, and the prospect of preserving and fostering the learning ability in at-risk youth though the application of insights from the cognitive neuroscience of memory, stress, and early experience.

Source: NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools

Project number: 5R01HD055689-05

PI: Dr. Martha Farah