Early childhood home environment predicts frontal and temporal cortical thickness in the young adult brain
Wednesday, Oct 17, 2012, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
, L. BETANCOURT
, J. GIANNETTA
, G. LAWSON
, J. GEE
, M. FARAH
, H. HURT
Children's hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA;
Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
: Evidence from animal models suggests that the early environment has long-term consequences on later cognitive functioning and brain development. Little work has been performed in human subjects to test whether normal variation in early experience has measurable long term effects on the brain [1,2].
: Our analysis leverages 64 participants from a low socioeconomic status background who were followed from birth and who underwent T1 and diffusion tensor (DT) MR imaging on a Siemens 3T Trio. Each subject underwent the HOME assessment at age 4. MRI was collected later in life in both 29 male (a.a. = 19.4 ± 1.17) and 35 female (a.a. = 19.1 ± 1.30) subjects. Differences in the age of the cohort distribution and in parental IQ between males and females are not significantly different. Each subject also underwent the HOME assessment at age 4 which is a questionnaire that may be used to quantify a more cognitively stimulating and emotionally supportive home. In this work, we use neuroimaging and machine learning-based statistics to efficiently test the hypothesis that networks supporting cognition should be enhanced by increased stimulation and nurturance during childhood. Our statistical model, implemented in the R programming language, controls for age, gender and parental IQ.
Results and Discussion:
Our results show, for the first time, that cortical thickness in early adulthood is reduced (independently from parental IQ) by increased quality of the home environment at age 4. These results, which identify a novel network of cortical regions that are directly influenced by parental behavior, appear in Figure 1. A further analysis revealed that early cognitive stimulation has a stronger effect on frontal lobe cortical thickness in female subjects (p < 0.0069) than in males (p < 0.5000) and that the temporal lobe regions are related to verbal comprehension as measured near the time of imaging. This is one of the few studies to confirm the effect of normal variability in the home on neuroanatomy.
 van Praag H et al Nat Rev Neurosci 1: 191[[unable to display character: –]]198.
 Duncan GJ et al Child Dev 65: 296[[unable to display character: –]]318.
[Authors]. [Abstract Title]. Program No. XXX.XX. 2012 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. New Orleans, LA: Society for Neuroscience, 2012. Online.
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