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Volume 10 Issue 4 (July 2007), Pages F15-F38, 423-511

Socioeconomic gradients predict individual differences in neurocognitive abilities (pages 464-480)

Abstract

Socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with childhood cognitive achievement. In previous research we found that this association shows neural specificity; specifically we found that groups of low and middle SES children differed disproportionately in perisylvian/language and prefrontal/executive abilities relative to other neurocognitive abilities. Here we address several new questions: To what extent does this disparity between groups reflect a gradient of SES‐related individual differences in neurocognitive development, as opposed to a more categorical difference? What other neurocognitive systems differ across individuals as a function of SES? Does linguistic ability mediate SES differences in other systems? And how do specific prefrontal/executive subsystems vary with SES? One hundred and fifty healthy, socioeconomically diverse first‐graders were administered tasks tapping language, visuospatial skills, memory, working memory, cognitive control, and reward processing. SES explained over 30% of the variance in language, and a smaller but highly significant portion of the variance in most other systems. Statistically mediating factors and possible interventional approaches are discussed.

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