Income inequality, gene expression, and brain maturation during adolescence

Published on Dec 1, 2017in Scientific Reports4.011
· DOI :10.1038/s41598-017-07735-2
Nadine Parker1
Estimated H-index: 1
(U of T: University of Toronto),
Angelita Pui-Yee Wong4
Estimated H-index: 4
(U of T: University of Toronto)
+ 6 AuthorsTomáš Paus86
Estimated H-index: 86
Income inequality is associated with poor health and social outcomes. Negative social comparisons and competition may involve the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) and hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axes in underlying some of these complex inter-relationships. Here we investigate brain maturation, indexed by age-related decreases in cortical thickness, in adolescents living in neighborhoods with differing levels of income inequality and household income. We examine whether inter-regional variations relate to those in glucocorticoid receptor (HPA) and androgen receptor (HPG) gene expression. For each sex, we used a median split of income inequality and household income (income-to-needs ratio) to create four subgroups. In female adolescents, the high-inequality low-income group displayed the greatest age-related decreases in cortical thickness. In this group, expression of glucocorticoid and androgen receptor genes explained the most variance in these age-related decreases in thickness across the cortex. We speculate that female adolescents living in high-inequality neighborhoods and low-income households may experience greater HPA and HPG activity, leading to steeper decreases in cortical thickness with age.
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