Study Links Brain Anatomy, Academic Achievement, And Family Income

The Future Leadership Institute

by Anne Trafton | MIT News Office

Illustration: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT Illustration: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

In middle-schoolers, neuroscientists find differences in brain structures where knowledge is stored.

Many years of research have shown that for students from lower-income families, standardized test scores and other measures of academic success tend to lag behind those of wealthier students.

A new study led by researchers at MIT and Harvard University offers another dimension to this so-called “achievement gap”: After imaging the brains of high- and low-income students, they found that the higher-income students had thicker brain cortex in areas associated with visual perception and knowledge accumulation. Furthermore, these differences also correlated with one measure of academic achievement — performance on standardized tests.

“Just as you would expect, there’s a real cost to not living in a supportive environment. We can see it not only in test scores, in educational attainment, but within the brains of these children,” says…

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