Growing evidence suggests that childhood socioeconomic status (SES) influences neural development, which may contribute to the well-documented SES-related disparities in academic achievement. However, the particular aspects of SES that impact neural structure and function are not well understood. Here, we investigate associations of childhood SES and a potential mechanism—degree of cognitive stimulation in the home environment—with cortical structure, white matter microstructure, and neural function during a working memory (WM) task across development. Analyses included 53 youths (age 6–19 years). Higher SES as reflected in the income-to-needs ratio was associated with higher parent-reported achievement, WM performance, and cognitive stimulation in the home environment. Although SES was not significantly associated with cortical thickness, children raised in more cognitively stimulating environments had thicker cortex in the frontoparietal network and cognitive stimulation mediated the assocation between SES and cortical thickness in the frontoparietal network. Higher family SES was associated with white matter microstructure and neural activation in the frontoparietal network during a WM task, including greater fractional anisotropy (FA) in the right and left superior longitudinal fasciculi (SLF), and greater BOLD activation in multiple regions of the prefrontal cortex during WM encoding and maintenance. Greater FA and activation in these regions was associated higher parent-reported achievement. Together, cognitive stimulation, WM performance, FA in the SLF, and prefrontal activation during WM encoding and maintenance significantly mediated the association between SES and parent-reported achievement. These findings highlight potential neural, cognitive, and environmental mechanisms linking SES with academic achievement and suggest that enhancing cognitive stimulation in the home environment might be one effective strategy for reducing SES-related disparities in academic outcomes.
Childhood maltreatment is associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and elevated rates of adolescent and adult psychopathology including major depression, bipolar disorder, substance use disorders, and other medical comorbidities. Gray matter volume changes have been found in maltreated youth with (versus without) PTSD. However, little is known about the alterations of brain structural covariance network topology derived from cortical thickness in maltreated youth with PTSD. High-resolution T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging scans were from demographically matched maltreated youth with PTSD (N = 24), without PTSD (N = 64), and non-maltreated healthy controls (n = 67). Cortical thickness data from 148 cortical regions was entered into interregional partial correlation analyses across participants. The supra-threshold correlations constituted connections in a structural brain network derived from four types of centrality measures (degree, betweenness, closeness, and eigenvector) estimated network topology and the importance of nodes. Between-group differences were determined by permutation testing. Maltreated youth with PTSD exhibited larger centrality in left anterior cingulate cortex than the other two groups, suggesting cortical network topology specific to maltreated youth with PTSD. Moreover, maltreated youth with versus without PTSD showed smaller centrality in right orbitofrontal cortex, suggesting that this may represent a vulnerability factor to PTSD following maltreatment. Longitudinal follow-up of the present results will help characterize the role that altered centrality plays in vulnerability and resilience to PTSD following childhood maltreatment.