Neighborhood deprivation, prefrontal morphology and neurocognition in late childhood to early adolescence

Teresa Vargas*, Katherine S.F. Damme, Vijay A. Mittal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Background: Neighborhood deprivation adversely effects neurodevelopment and cognitive function; however, mechanisms remain unexplored. Neighborhood deprivation could be particularly impactful in late childhood/early adolescence, in neural regions with protracted developmental trajectories, e.g., prefrontal cortex (PFC). Methods: The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study recruited 10,205 youth. Geocoded residential history was used to extract individual neighborhood characteristics. A general cognitive ability index and MRI scans were completed. Associations with neurocognition were examined. The relation of PFC surface area and cortical thickness to neighborhood deprivation was tested. PFC subregions and asymmetry, with putative differential environmental susceptibility during key developmental periods, were explored. Analyses tested PFC area as a possible mediating mechanism. Results: Neighborhood deprivation predicted neurocognitive performance (β ​= ​−0.11), even after accounting for parental education and household income (β ​= ​−0.07). Higher neighborhood deprivation related to greater overall PFC surface area (ηp2 ​= ​0.003), and differences in leftward asymmetry were observed for area (ηp2 ​= ​0.001), and thickness (ηp2 ​= ​0.003). Subregion analyses highlighted differences among critical areas that are actively developing in late childhood/early adolescence and are essential to modulating high order cognitive function. These included orbitofrontal, superior frontal, rostral middle frontal, and frontal pole regions (Cohen's d ​= ​0.03–0.09). PFC surface area partially mediated the relation between neighborhood deprivation and neurocognition. Discussion: Neighborhood deprivation related to cognitive function (a foundational skill tied to a range of lifetime outcomes) and PFC morphology, with evidence found for partial mediation of PFC on neurocognitive function. Results inform public health conceptualizations of development and environmental vulnerability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number117086
StatePublished - Oct 15 2020


  • Cognition
  • Environmental vulnerability
  • Neighborhood deprivation
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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