Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Psychology Dept.


Jennifer Coane


Disparities in cognition are inevitable throughout the lifespan due to socioeconomic gaps. Individuals of lower socioeconomic status (SES) may have fewer access to environmental resources, especially with regard to education, than individuals of higher socioeconomic status. Differences in available resources from a young age may affect brain development, leading to detriments in cognition and behavior, further impacting socioeconomic success in adulthood. In the present study, we modeled the development of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and changes in cognitive function throughout the life trajectory in the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research Rockland Sample. The DLPFC volume was predicted to be associated with SES and executive function, measured by Digit Span Backward, Color-Word Interference, Trail Making Test, and Verbal fluency tasks: lower SES would hinder DLPFC development, which would relate to progressively impaired executive functioning. Greater age would show increased detriments to executive functioning with lower SES due to accumulated effects from health and environmental disparities on the DLPFC. Results demonstrated that low SES impaired performance on all executive function tasks, with greater differences as age increases. The DLPFC failed to correlate with SES and executive function across the lifespan when we controlled for age, suggesting age is a critical factor in the impairment of executive function and reduction of DLPFC volume. The importance of age and SES in executive functioning and brain development patterns points to the urgency of support in young people to help mitigate the detrimental effects of SES throughout life.


socioeconomic status, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, executive function, lifespan