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NIDA. (2015, March 30). Study looks at effects of socioeconomic factors on child brain development and achievement. Retrieved from

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Science Spotlight

March 30, 2015

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New research suggests that family income, and to a lesser degree parental education, are associated with brain structure differences in children and young adults. Focusing on brain regions critical for language, memory, and executive function in participants aged three to 20 years, scientists found that small differences in income were associated with relatively large differences in brain surface area in young people from the lowest-income families. This effect was smaller in higher-income families. Higher income was also associated with better performance in tests of cognitive ability. Increased levels of parental education were also related to increased brain surface area, although this effect was smaller when compared to the influence of income.

Although these study results do not suggest that low-income children have poor cognitive function, they indicate that interventions to reduce family poverty may help reduce socioeconomic disparities in child development and achievement.  

This research was funded by NIDA, NICHD, and NIMH. For a copy of the article, published in Nature Neuroscience, go to: To learn more about a trans-NIH collaboration to explore the effects of teen substance use on the developing brain, go to:

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