Associations between cortical thickness and reasoning differ by socioeconomic status in development

Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2019 Apr;36:100641. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2019.100641. Epub 2019 Mar 23.


Although lower socioeconomic status (SES) is generally negatively associated with performance on cognitive assessments, some children from lower-SES backgrounds perform as well as their peers from higher-SES backgrounds. Yet little research has examined whether the neural correlates of individual differences in cognition vary by SES. The current study explored whether relationships between cortical structure and fluid reasoning differ by SES in development. Fluid reasoning, a non-verbal component of IQ, is supported by a distributed frontoparietal network, with evidence for a specific role of rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (RLPFC). In a sample of 115 4-7-year old children, bilateral thickness of RLPFC differentially related to reasoning by SES: thicker bilateral RLPFC positively correlated with reasoning ability in children from lower-SES backgrounds, but not in children from higher-SES backgrounds. Similar results were found in an independent sample of 59 12-16-year old adolescents. Furthermore, young children from lower-SES backgrounds with strong reasoning skills were the only group to show a positive relationship between RLPFC thickness and age. In sum, we found that relationships between cortical thickness and cognition differ by SES during development.

Keywords: Brain development; Child development; MRI; Reasoning; Socioeconomic status; early childhood.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • Social Class*