Childhood poverty and recruitment of adult emotion regulatory neurocircuitry


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Abstract

One in five American children grows up in poverty. Childhood poverty has far-reaching adverse impacts on cognitive, social and emotional development. Altered development of neurocircuits, subserving emotion regulation, is one possible pathway for childhood poverty’s ill effects. Children exposed to poverty were followed into young adulthood and then studied using functional brain imaging with an implicit emotion regulation task focused. Implicit emotion regulation involved attention shifting and appraisal components. Early poverty reduced left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex recruitment in the context of emotional regulation. Furthermore, this emotion regulation associated brain activation mediated the effects of poverty on adult task performance. Moreover, childhood poverty also predicted enhanced insula and reduced hippocampal activation, following exposure to acute stress. These results demonstrate that childhood poverty can alter adult emotion regulation neurocircuitry, revealing specific brain mechanisms that may underlie long-term effects of social inequalities on health. The role of poverty-related emotion regulatory neurocircuitry appears to be particularly salient during stressful conditions.

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