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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Nov 20;115(47):12063-12068. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1810067115. Epub 2018 Nov 5.

Functional connectivity in central executive network protects youth against cardiometabolic risks linked with neighborhood violence.

Author information

Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208;
Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208.
Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208.
Research and Information Services, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208.
Center for Family Research, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602.
Department of Radiology, Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL 60611.


Although violent crime has declined in recent decades, it remains a recurring feature of daily life in some neighborhoods. Mounting evidence indicates that such violence has a long reach, which goes beyond family and friends of the victim and undermines the health of people in the surrounding community. However, like all forms of adversity, community violence elicits a heterogeneous response: Some remain healthy, but others deteriorate. Despite much scientific attention, the neural circuitries that contribute to differential adaptation remain poorly understood. Drawing on knowledge of the brain's intrinsic functional architecture, we predicted that individual differences in resting-state connectivity would explain variability in the strength of the association between neighborhood violence and cardiometabolic health. We enrolled 218 urban youth (age 12-14 years, 66% female; 65% black or Latino) and used geocoding to characterize their exposure to neighborhood murder over the past five years. Multiple aspects of cardiometabolic health were assessed, including obesity, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. Functional MRI was used to quantify the connectivity of major intrinsic networks. Consistent with predictions, resting-state connectivity within the central executive network (CEN) emerged as a moderator of adaptation. Across six distinct outcomes, a higher neighborhood murder rate was associated with greater cardiometabolic risk, but this relationship was apparent only among youth who displayed lower CEN resting-state connectivity. By contrast, there was little evidence of moderation by the anterior salience and default mode networks. These findings advance basic and applied knowledge about adaptation by highlighting intrinsic CEN connectivity as a potential neurobiological contributor to resilience.


cardiovascular; children; neuroscience; resilience; stress

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