The impact of social disparity on prefrontal function in childhood.

Sheridan, MA, Sarsour K, Jutte D, D'Esposito M, Boyce TW.  2012.  The impact of social disparity on prefrontal function in childhood., 2012. PloS one. 7(4):e35744.


The prefrontal cortex (PFC) develops from birth through late adolescence. This extended developmental trajectory provides many opportunities for experience to shape the structure and function of the PFC. To date, a few studies have reported links between parental socioeconomic status (SES) and prefrontal function in childhood, raising the possibility that aspects of environment associated with SES impact prefrontal function. Considering that behavioral measures of prefrontal function are associated with learning across multiple domains, this is an important area of investigation. In this study, we used fMRI to replicate previous findings, demonstrating an association between parental SES and PFC function during childhood. In addition, we present two hypothetical mechanisms by which SES could come to affect PFC function of this association: language environment and stress reactivity. We measured language use in the home environment and change in salivary cortisol before and after fMRI scanning. Complexity of family language, but not the child's own language use, was associated with both parental SES and PFC activation. Change in salivary cortisol was also associated with both SES and PFC activation. These observed associations emphasize the importance of both enrichment and adversity-reduction interventions in creating good developmental environments for all children.

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