Socioeconomic status shapes developing brains: Study

Socioeconomic status shapes developing brains: Study

The brain anatomy is consistently shaped by socioeconomic status from childhood to early adulthood, a study has found.

The findings, published in the journal JNeurosci, draws attention to the importance of preschool life as a period when associations between SES and brain organisation may first develop.

Researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health in the US analysed 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 socioeconomic status (SES) and the size and surface area of brain regions involved in cognitive functions such as learning, language, and emotions.

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 minimise SES-related variation in health and achievement, they said.