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Socioeconomic Status Linked to Children’s White Matter Microstructure

Greater neighborhood disadvantage, lower household income linked to microstructural differences, with link partly due to obesity, cognition

By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 10, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Lower socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with children’s white matter microstructure, according to a study published online June 27 in JAMA Network Open.

Zhaolong Adrian Li, from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study using baseline data from participants in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study to examine whether and how neighborhood and household SES are independently associated with children’s white matter microstructure. A total of 8,842 children in the ABCD study were included in the analyses.

The researchers found that greater neighborhood disadvantage was associated with lower restriction spectrum imaging restricted normalized directional (RSI-RND) diffusion in the left superior longitudinal fasciculus and forceps major. There was an association seen for lower parental education attainment with lower RSI-RND in the bilateral superior longitudinal fasciculus and bilateral corticospinal or pyramidal tract. The associations between SES and RSI-RND were partially explained by lower cognitive performance and greater obesity. In most tracts, lower household income was associated with higher RSI-restricted normalized isotropic (RNI) diffusion. Lower parental educational attainment was associated with higher RSI-RNI in the forceps major. These associations were partly explained by greater obesity.

“In this large cross-sectional study, neighborhood and household socioeconomic adversity were independently associated with white matter microstructural differences in children,” the authors write. “These associations were partially explained by obesity and cognition.”

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