Socioeconomic status (SES) impacts on both structural and functional brain development in childhood, but how early its effects can be demonstrated is unknown. In this study we measured resting baseline EEG activity in the gamma frequency range in awake 6-9-month-olds from areas of East London with high socioeconomic deprivation. Between-subject comparisons of infants from low- and high-income families revealed significantly lower frontal gamma power in infants from low-income homes. Similar power differences were found when comparing infants according to maternal occupation, with lower occupational status groups yielding lower power. Infant sleep, maternal education, length of gestation, and birth weight, as well as smoke exposure and bilingualism, did not explain these differences. Our results show that the effects of socioeconomic disparities on brain activity can already be detected in early infancy, potentially pointing to very early risk for language and attention difficulties. This is the first study to reveal region-selective differences in functional brain development associated with early infancy in low-income families.
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.