Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Children from low-socioeconomic status (SES) households on average exhibit lower academic achievement than their higher-SES peers. We investigated a novel hypothesis that differences in early-developing sensory networks—specifically the ventral visual stream (VVS), which is involved in processing visual stimuli—contribute to SES-related disparities in executive functions (EF) and academic outcomes. We used fMRI to investigate SES-related differences in neural function in children (6–8 years, n = 62) during two attentional tasks involving attention to visual information: cued attention and memory-guided attention. Recruitment of VVS during both tasks was associated with EF and academic achievement, and SES-related differences in VVS activation during cued attention were marginally explained by differences in cognitive stimulation. VVS activation during cued attention mediated SES-related differences in academic achievement. Finally, the link between VVS activation during both tasks and academic achievement was mediated by differences in EF. We extend previous work by highlighting that: (i) early-developing visual processing regions play a role in supporting complex attentional processes, (ii) childhood SES is associated with VVS function, which is explained in part by SES-related differences in cognitive stimulation and (iii) provide preliminary evidence that individual differences in VVS function may play a role in the emergence of the income-achievement gap.
Academic achievement, Cognitive stimulation, Executive function, fMRI, Socioeconomic status (SES), Visual association cortex
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.
Rosen, Maya L.; Lurie, Lucy A.; Sambrook, Kelly A.; Meltzoff, Andrew N.; and McLaughlin, Katie A., "Neural Mechanisms Underlying the Income-Achievement Gap: The Role of the Ventral Visual Stream" (2021). Neuroscience: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.