Your education and income may affect your kid’s brain structure

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Happy family

It has been known that parental socioeconomic status (SES) is related to children’s early experiences and cognitive development.

Recent studies have also shown that family SES is associated with children’s brain functions, such as language, memory, emotion, and self-regulation.

One remain question is whether parental SES is directly linked to children’s brain structure.

A research newly published in Nature Neuroscience answered the question by testing relationships between parental SES and brain structure in 1099 healthy individuals ranging from 3 to 20 years old.

These individuals have different genetic ancestry, including African, East Asian, central Asian, European, American Indian, and Oceanic.

The results showed that parental education and income were positively associated with cortical surface area, which is important to measure brain maturation.

In addition, family income was linked to cortical thickness, another important index for brain development.

Many brain regions showed significant relations with SES, including regions for language, spatial skills, reading, and decision making.

Furthermore, parental education was related to the volume of hippocampus, a fundamental brain area for memory function.

These findings were independent of the individuals’ age, sex, brain scanning place, and genetic ancestry.

In the paper, scientists discussed the implication of the finding: “….any increase in parental education, whether an extra year of high school or college, was related to a similar increase in surface area over the course of childhood and adolescence…… for every dollar in increased income, the increase in children’s brain surface area was proportionally greater at the lower end of the family income spectrum”.


Citation: Noble KG, Houston SM, Brito NH, Bartsch7 H, Kan E, Kuperman JM, Akshoomoff N, Amaral DG, Bloss CS, Libiger O, Schork NJ, Murray SS, Casey BJ, Chang L, Ernst TM, Frazier JA, Gruen JR, Kennedy DN, Zijl PV, Mostofsky S, Kaufmann WE, Kenet T, Dale AM, Jernigan TL, Sowell ER. (2015). Family income, parental education and brain structure in children and adolescents. Nature Neuroscience, 18:773–8.  doi:10.1038/nn.3983
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