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Dev Sci. 2018 May;21(3):e12561. doi: 10.1111/desc.12561. Epub 2017 May 2.

Socioeconomic status and hippocampal volume in children and young adults.

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The Institute of Gerontology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, 48202, USA.
Psychology Department, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, 48202, USA.
Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, 61801, USA.
Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada.
The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario.
The Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, 48202, USA.


An individual's socioeconomic status (SES) is often viewed as a proxy for a host of environmental influences. SES disparities have been linked to variance in brain structures particularly the hippocampus, a neural substrate of learning and memory. However, it is unclear whether the association between SES and hippocampal volume is similar in children and adults. We investigated the relationship between hippocampal volume and SES in a group of children (n = 31, age 8-12 years) and a group of young adults (n = 32, age 18-25 years). SES was assessed with four indicators that loaded on a single factor, therefore a composite SES scores was used in the main analyses. Hippocampal volume was measured using manual demarcation on high resolution structural images. SES was associated with hippocampal volume in the children, but not in adults, suggesting that in childhood, but not adulthood, SES-related environmental factors influence hippocampal volume. In addition, hippocampal volume, but not SES, was associated with scores on a memory task, suggesting that net effects of postnatal environmental factors, captured by SES, are more distal determinants of memory performance than hippocampal volume. Longitudinal investigation of the association between SES, hippocampal volume and cognitive functioning may further our understanding of the putative neural mechanisms underlying SES-related environmental effects on cognitive development.

[Available on 2019-05-01]

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