Lower socioeconomic status (SES) has long been known to impact both adults and developing children in a myriad of ways.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), low SES affects everything from psychological health and physical health to educational success and family stability.
Though, a recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan has taken this previous research one step further.
The team found that being raised in a socioeconomically disadvantaged household may actually alter children’s brain development.
Over five thousand and eight hundred children between the ages of nine and ten– who were from diverse backgrounds across the United States– participated in the study and underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans.
During the children’s first fMRI scan, they were asked to lay still in order for the research team to gain a baseline.
This period of rest allowed the scientists to observe and record how much neuronal traffic was traveling between different brain regions on functional routes that begin developing before birth and continue through adolescence.
This data was then analyzed in three key ways: across the entire brain, across major neuronal networks, and across brain connections on the individual level.
Next, using machine learning, the research team was able to “teach” a computer to essentially predict each child’s level of socioeconomic resource access using only their brain connection patterns. This stage of the analysis revealed wide variation in brain connectivity patterns.