Poster F111, Tuesday, March 27, 8:00-10:00 am, Exhibit Hall C
Associations between cortical thickness and reasoning vary by socioeconomic status in early childhood
Julia A. Leonard1, Rachel R. Romeo1, Anne T. Park2, Megumi Takada1, Sydney T. Robinson2, John D.E. Gabrieli1, Allyson P. Mackey2; 1Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2University of Pennsylvania
Although lower socioeconomic status (SES) is generally associated with lower performance on tests of cognitive skills, many children from lower SES backgrounds perform as well as their peers from higher SES backgrounds. Yet little research has explored whether the neural correlates of these individual differences in cognition vary with SES. The current study explores whether relationships between cortical structure and fluid reasoning differ by SES in early childhood. Fluid reasoning is supported by a distributed frontoparietal network, with evidence for a specific role of the rostral-lateral prefrontal cortex (RLPFC) in relational reasoning. In a sample of 115 4-7 year olds, we found that reasoning positively correlates with SES (r = .31, p<.001), but there remained significant variation of ability within SES brackets. In exploratory whole-brain cortical thickness analyses, bilateral thickness of the RLPFC differentially related to reasoning by SES (correcting for multiple corrections with FreeSurfer Monte Carlo simulation at p < .005). Specifically, thicker bilateral RLPFC positively correlated with reasoning in children from lower-SES backgrounds, whereas there was a slightly negative relationship in children from higher-SES backgrounds. Although RLPFC slowly thins across development, children from lower-SES backgrounds with higher reasoning ability showed a positive relationship between RLPFC thickness and age, while those with low reasoning ability showed a negative relationship. This work shows that slower RLPFC development may confer greater cognitive abilities in low, but not high, SES children and adds to a growing body of work showing that positive brain development may differ by environmental context.
Topic Area: THINKING: Reasoning