Beyond family-level adversities: Exploring the developing timing of neighborhood disadvantage effects on the brain

Arianna Gard1, Andrea Maxwell2, Daniel Shaw3, Colter Mitchell1, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn4, Sara Mclanahan5, Erika Forbes3, Christopher Monk1, Luke Hyde1
1University of Michigan, 2University of Minnesota, 3University of Pittsburgh, 4Teachers College, Columbia University, 5Princeton University
A growing literature suggests that environmental adversity is associated with later altered brain function, particularly within the corticolimbic system (e.g., amygdala, prefrontal cortex) that supports emotion processing and salience detection. Although neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage has been shown to predict maladaptive behavioral outcomes, particularly for boys, most of the research linking adversity to corticolimbic function has focused on family-level adversities. Moreover, though animal models and studies of normative brain development suggest that there may be sensitive periods during which adversity exerts stronger effects on corticolimbic development, little prospective evidence exists in humans. These associations remained after accounting for neighborhood disadvantage during other developmental periods and several family-level adversities (e.g., family income, harsh parenting), highlighting the independent and developmental-specific neural effects of the neighborhood context. Future work will examine which social and physical exposures act as mechanisms linking neighborhood disadvantage to youth brain development.