Members in the Media
From: The Atlantic

How Income Affects the Brain

We often attribute financial problems to bad life decisions: Why didn’t that person stay in college? Why didn’t they pick a more lucrative career? Why did they have so many kids? But several recent studies suggest that having less money can actually affect thinking and memory for the worse. In the most recent of these papers, scientists found a link between being lower on the socioeconomic ladder and changes in the brain.

For this study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the Center for Vital Longevity at the University of Texas at Dallas scanned the brains of 304 people aged 20 to 89. The researchers were looking for two things: first, how much gray matter the subjects had in their brains; second, how their brain networks were organized. In the brain, areas that have related functions often show similar activity: The areas that control speech, for example, tend to interact more with each other and less with the areas involved in different bodily functions. It’s generally considered to be a good thing for brain networks to be “segregated” in this way.

The researchers then correlated those brain images with the subjects’ education and employment histories—together, their overall socioeconomic status. It turned out that, among the middle-aged people (those aged 35 to 64), the higher-status participants both had more gray matter and more of this beneficial “segregation” in their brain networks. Both measures are correlated with better memory and are considered protective against dementia and other signs of brain aging.

Read the whole story (subscription may be required): The Atlantic

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