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Study: Family Income Affects Kids' Brain Structures

Study: Family Income Affects Kids' Brain Structures

A child's socioeconomic background may have more of an influence than one may think, especially when it comes to academics. According to a recent study, family income can affect regions of the brain associated with language, reading, spatial skills, and executive function.

A new analysis of MRI scans reveals that there is "a correlation between growing up in a lower-income family and having a smaller surface area in brain regions associated with skills that are important for academic success," according to an article on

The association is independent of the children's race or ethnicity, the researchers found," the article said. "Encouragingly, however, they also found that even small increases in income among the poorest seem to be associated with relatively large increases in brain surface area, and thus learning potential."

"We do not know exactly what [it is] about having more money [that] leads to these brain size differences, but we suspect it involves all the resources that more affluent people can afford, such as good nutrition, health care, better schools, etc.," said Elizabeth Sowell, senior author on the report and a professor of pediatrics at Children's Hospital Los Angeles and the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, in the article.

According to the article, "the researchers examined nearly 1,100 individuals between ages 3 and 20, the largest study of its kind. The children's family income levels were assessed through questionnaires, and measurements of the surface area of the brain were assessed with high-resolution brain MRIs."

"The researchers found that as family income increases so, too, does the brain surface area of the child, on average, in regions supporting language, reading, spatial skills and executive functions, which are the mental processes that enable focusing, remembering and multitasking," the article said. "The study also showed that parental education was linked with a child's total brain surface area, implying that the more education the parent had, the greater the brain surface area for the child throughout his or her development."

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Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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