Socioeconomic Deprivation and Cortical Morphology: Psychological, Social, and Biological Determinants of Ill Health Study

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Abstract

Objective

Neighborhood-level socioeconomic deprivation has been associated with poor cognitive function pertaining to language and the executive control. Few studies have explored the cortical morphology of regions most commonly associated with these functions. The aim of this study was to examine the association between neighborhood-level deprivation and the morphology of cortical regions associated with language and executive control in adults.

Methods

Using a cross-sectional study design, we compared the cortical morphology of 42 neurologically healthy adult men from the least deprived and most deprived neighborhoods of Glasgow. We performed surface-based morphometry on 3-T structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images to extract the cortical morphology—volume, thickness (CT), and surface area (SA) of regions commonly associated with language and executive control. Cortical morphology was compared between the two groups. We used mediation analysis to examine whether cardiometabolic risk factors mediated the relationship between deprivation status and cortical morphology.

Results

Intracranial volume and mean total CT did not differ between groups. The deprived group had significantly smaller left posterior parietal cortex SA (Cohen d = 0.89) and fusiform cortex SA (Cohen d = 1.05). They also had thinner left Wernicke’s area (Cohen d =0.93) and its right homologue (Cohen d = 1.12). Among the cardiometabolic markers, a composite factor comprising inflammatory markers mediated the relationship between deprivation status and Wernicke’s area CT.

Conclusions

A group of neurologically healthy men from deprived neighborhoods showed significantly smaller cortical morphology—both SA and CT—in regions of the brain pertaining to language and executive function. We provide additional evidence of a relationship between socioeconomic deprivation and cortical morphology.

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