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Childhood socio-economic disadvantage predicts reduced myelin growth across adolescence and young adulthood

By Gabriel Ziegler, Michael Moutoussis, Tobias U Hauser, Pasco Fearon, Edward T. Bullmore, Ian M. Goodyer, Peter Fonagy, Peter B. Jones, NSPN Consortium, Ulman Lindenberger, Raymond J. Dolan

Posted 28 Mar 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/589713

Socio-economic disadvantage (SED) increases exposure to life stressors. Animal research suggests early life stressors affect later neurodevelopment, including myelin developmental growth. To determine whether human childhood SED affects myelination in adolescence and early adulthood we measured the developmental increase of a sensitive myelin marker, magnetization transfer (MT), in a longitudinal study. Childhood SED was associated with globally reduced MT, as well as slower intra-cortical MT increase in widespread sensory-motor, cingulate, insular and prefrontal areas and subcortical areas. Parental education partially accounted for the SED effects on MT increase, while positive parenting provided a partial protection against the impact of SED. Thus, early socio-economic disadvantage, a vulnerability factor for a range of ill-health outcomes, is a risk factor for aberrant myelin growth during a critical developmental period that is associated with a high risk of psychiatric disorder.

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