Parental Education and Functional Connectivity between Nucleus Accumbens (NAcc) and Frontoparietal Network (FPN)

Mona Darvishi, Mohammed Saqib, Shervin Assari


Introduction: While previous studies have indicated an association between socioeconomic status (SES) and children’s neuroimaging measures, weaker SES effects are shown for Black than White families. This is, in part, due to processes such as stratification, racism, marginalization, and othering of Black people in the US, which act as barriers to translating SES resources into health outcomes. Purpose: This study had two aims: First, to test the association between parental education and the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) with the frontoparietal network (FPN) in children; and second, to investigate racial heterogeneity in this association. Methods: This cross-sectional study used data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. We analyzed the resting-state functional connectivity data of 7959 US pre-adolescents who were between 9 and 10 years old. The main outcome was the NAcc resting-state functional connectivity with FPN. Parental education was considered as an independent variable. Family structure, sex and age were the study covariates. Finally, race was regarded as the moderator. We used mixed-effects regression for data analysis with and without interaction terms between parental education and race. Results: Parental education was associated with higher NAcc resting-state functional connectivity with FPN. Race showed a statistically significant interaction with parental education, suggesting that the effects of parental education on NAcc rsFC with FPN was significantly weaker for Black pre-adolescents compared to White pre-adolescents. Conclusions: In line with Minorities’ Diminished Returns (MDRs), the association between parental education and pre-adolescents’ NAcc rsFC with FPN is weaker in Black pre-adolescents compared to their White counterparts. This finding is of interest because FPN’s rsFC with NAcc may have a role in cognitive flexibility and reward processing. The weaker links between SES indicators and children’s neuroimaging findings for Black than for White families may reflect the racialization of Blacks in the US. Social stratification, racism, and discrimination may minimize the returns of SES in Black communities.

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