Neuroethics Publications

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Working Paper

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Developmental Science





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There is increasing interest in both the cumulative and long term impact of early life adversity on brain structure and function, especially as the brain is both highly vulnerable and highly adaptive during childhood. Relationships between SES and neural development have been shown in children older than age two years. Less is known regarding the impact of SES on neural development in children before age two. This paper examines the effect of SES, indexed by income-to-needs (ITN) and maternal education, on cortical, deep gray, and white matter volumes in term, healthy, appropriate for gestational age, African American, female infants. At 44-46 post-conception weeks, unsedated infants underwent MRI (3.0T Siemens Verio scanner, 32-channel head coil). Images were segmented based on a locally-constructed template. Utilizing hierarchical linear regression, overall and component (maternal education and ITN) SES effects on MRI volumes were examined. In this cohort of healthy African American infants of varying SES, lower SES was associated with smaller cortical gray and deep gray matter volumes. These SES effects on neural outcome at such a young age build on similar studies of older children, suggesting that the biological embedding of adversity may occur very early in development.

Copyright/Permission Statement

(Postprint statement) This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: [Betancourt, Laura M; Avants, Brian; Farah, MJ; et al. "Effect of socioeconomic status (SES) disparity on neural development in female African-American infants at age 1 month." Developmental Science 19 (6): 947-956. November 2016., which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving [link to].


infant, MRI, socioeconomic status, development, neural, poverty



Date Posted: 17 August 2018

This document has been peer reviewed.