Poster C24, Sunday, March 25, 1:00-3:00 pm, Exhibit Hall C
Socioeconomic Disadvantage, Prefrontal Cortical Structure, and Executive Function in School-Aged Children
Pooja M. Desai1, Emily C. Merz2, Elaine Maskus2, Xiaofu He3, Kimberly G. Noble2; 1Barnard College, Columbia University, 2Teachers College, Columbia University, 3Columbia University Medical Center
Currently, in the United States, it is estimated that more than 1 in 5 children live below the poverty line. Socioeconomic disparities in children’s development of executive function (EF) have been well established. In addition, socioeconomic disadvantage has been associated with decreased surface area (SA) in regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) that are closely involved in EF skills. However, little work has examined which specific PFC regions mediate socioeconomic differences in children’s EF. In this study, we investigated whether structural differences in PFC regions mediated associations between socioeconomic status (SES) and EF in 5- to 9-year-old children (N = 31). Children from socioeconomically diverse families completed a high-resolution T1-weighted MRI scan. FreeSurfer was used for quality control, preprocessing, and extraction of SA in PFC regions-of-interest. Children also completed inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility tasks from the NIH Toolbox Cognition Battery. Lower family income-to-needs ratio (ITN) was significantly associated with decreased working memory and cognitive flexibility, and lower parental education was significantly associated with decreased working memory. Further, lower family ITN was associated with decreased SA in the medial orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), which in turn was linked with decreased cognitive flexibility, although this did not reach conventional levels of significance via bias-corrected bootstrapping. Lower parental education was found to have a marginally significant indirect effect on reduced inhibitory control through decreased lateral OFC SA. Together, these findings suggest that OFC regions are potentially implicated in the pathway from socioeconomic disadvantage to childhood EF difficulties.
Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Development & aging