Family income, parental education and brain structure in children and adolescents

Nat Neurosci. 2015 May;18(5):773-8. doi: 10.1038/nn.3983. Epub 2015 Mar 30.


Socioeconomic disparities are associated with differences in cognitive development. The extent to which this translates to disparities in brain structure is unclear. We investigated relationships between socioeconomic factors and brain morphometry, independently of genetic ancestry, among a cohort of 1,099 typically developing individuals between 3 and 20 years of age. Income was logarithmically associated with brain surface area. Among children from lower income families, small differences in income were associated with relatively large differences in surface area, whereas, among children from higher income families, similar income increments were associated with smaller differences in surface area. These relationships were most prominent in regions supporting language, reading, executive functions and spatial skills; surface area mediated socioeconomic differences in certain neurocognitive abilities. These data imply that income relates most strongly to brain structure among the most disadvantaged children.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Anthropometry
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / growth & development
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA / genetics
  • Educational Status*
  • Genotype
  • Hippocampus / anatomy & histology
  • Hippocampus / growth & development
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Organ Size
  • Parents / education*
  • Poverty
  • Psychological Tests
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult


  • DNA