May 20, 2021

Lower socioeconomic status is associated with poorer neuropsychological, educational, and socioeconomic outcomes in children

Lu YC, Kapse K, Andersen N, Quistorff J, Lopez C, Fry A, Cheng J, Andescavage N, Wu Y, Espinosa K, Vezina G, du Plessis A, Limperopoulos C.

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2777840

Lu et al. recently described an association between parental socioeconomic status and altered in vivo fetal neurodevelopment in a cohort of 144 healthy pregnancies. The researchers measured fetal brain volume (total and stratified) and analyzed cerebral gyration with fetal brain MRI and 3-dimensional computational brain models. They compared these measurements to parental education levels and socioeconomic levels scores, and the results are interesting:

  • Higher parental education level was associated with increased volume in the fetal white matter, gray matter, and brainstem.
  • Higher socioeconomic levels were associated with increased volume in the fetal white matter, cerebellum, and brainstem.
  • Higher socioeconomic levels were associated with decreased fetal cortical gray matter volume, cortical local gyrification index, and sulcal depth (except for the frontal lobes).

Although the mechanisms underlying these associations remain unclear, it is postulated that increased psychosocial stress in pregnant women of lower socioeconomic level may increase inflammatory responses and alter both gray and white matter development in the developing fetus.  Being born and raised in a lower socioeconomic status setting is associated with poorer neuropsychological, educational, and socioeconomic outcomes in children. These findings suggest that not only postnatal conditions, but altered prenatal programming as well, may affect developmental outcomes in children and may warrant targeted prenatal interventions.

Carolina V. Guimaraes, MD
Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford

Leave a Comment