skip to main content

Title: Effects of the physical and social environment on youth cognitive performance

Individual differences in children's cognitive abilities impact life and health outcomes. What factors influence these individual differences during development? Here, we test whether children's environments predict cognitive performance, independent of well‐characterized socioeconomic effects. We analyzed data from 9002 9‐ to 10‐year olds from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, an ongoing longitudinal study with community samples across the United States. Using youth‐ and caregiver‐report questionnaires and national database registries (e.g., neighborhood crime, walkability), we defined principal components summarizing children's home, school, neighborhood, and cultural environments. In two independent samples (ns = 3475, 5527), environmental components explained unique variance in children's general cognitive ability, executive functioning, and learning/memory abilities. Furthermore, increased neighborhood enrichment was associated with an attenuated relationship between sociodemographics and general cognitive abilities. Thus, the environment accounts for unique variance in cognitive performance in children and should be considered alongside sociodemographic factors to better understand brain functioning and behavior across development.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Developmental Psychobiology
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Patterns of whole-brain fMRI functional connectivity, or connectomes, are unique to individuals. Previous work has identified subsets of functional connections within these patterns whose strength predicts aspects of attention and cognition. However, overall features of these connectomes, such as how stable they are over time and how similar they are to a group-average (typical) or high-performance (optimal) connectivity pattern, may also reflect cognitive and attentional abilities. Here, we test whether individuals who express more stable, typical, optimal, and distinctive patterns of functional connectivity perform better on cognitive tasks using data from three independent samples. We find that individuals with more stable task-based functional connectivity patterns perform better on attention and working memory tasks, even when controlling for behavioral performance stability. Additionally, we find initial evidence that individuals with more typical and optimal patterns of functional connectivity also perform better on these tasks. These results demonstrate that functional connectome stability within individuals and similarity across individuals predicts individual differences in cognition.

    more » « less
  2. Drawing, as a skill, is closely tied to many creative fields and it is a unique practice for every individual. Drawing has been shown to improve cognitive and communicative abilities, such as visual communication, problem-solving skills, students’ academic achievement, awareness of and attention to surrounding details, and sharpened analytical skills. Drawing also stimulates both sides of the brain and improves peripheral skills of writing, 3-D spatial recognition, critical thinking, and brainstorming. People are often exposed to drawing as children, drawing their families, their houses, animals, and, most notably, their imaginative ideas. These skills develop over time naturally to some extent, however, while the base concept of drawing is a basic skill, the mastery of this skill requires extensive practice and it can often be significantly impacted by the self-efficacy of an individual. Sketchtivity is an AI tool developed by Texas A&M University to facilitate the growth of drawing skills and track their performance. Sketching skill development depends in part on students’ self-efficacy associated with their drawing abilities. Gauging the drawing self-efficacy of individuals is critical in understanding the impact that this drawing practice has had with this new novel instrument, especially in contrast to traditional practicing methods. It may also be very useful for other researchers, educators, and technologists. This study reports the development and initial validation of a new 13-item measure that assesses perceived drawing self efficacy. The13 items to measure drawing self efficacy were developed based on Bandura’s guide for constructing Self-Efficacy Scales. The participants in the study consisted of 222 high school students from engineering, art, and pre-calculus classes. Internal consistency of the 13 observed items were found to be very high (Cronbach alpha: 0.943), indicating a high reliability of the scale. Exploratory Factor Analysis was performed to further investigate the variance among the 13 observed items, to find the underlying latent factors that influenced the observed items, and to see if the items needed revision. We found that a three model was the best fit for our data, given fit statistics and model interpretability. The factors are: Factor 1: Self-efficacy with respect to drawing specific objects; Factor 2: Self-efficacy with respect to drawing practically to solve problems, communicating with others, and brainstorming ideas; Factor 3: Self-efficacy with respect to drawing to create, express ideas, and use one’s imagination. An alternative four-factor model is also discussed. The purpose of our study is to inform interventions that increase self-efficacy. We believe that this assessment will be valuable especially for education researchers who implement AI-based tools to measure drawing skills.This initial validity study shows promising results for a new measure of drawing self-efficacy. Further validation with new populations and drawing classes is needed to support its use, and further psychometric testing of item-level performance. In the future, this self-efficacy assessment could be used by teachers and researchers to guide instructional interventions meant to increase drawing self-efficacy. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract  
    more » « less
  4. Previous findings show that the morphology of folds (sulci) of the human cerebral cortex flatten during postnatal development. However, previous studies did not consider the relationship between sulcal morphology and cognitive development in individual participants. Here, we fill this gap in knowledge by leveraging cross-sectional morphologic neuroimaging data in the lateral PFC (LPFC) from individual human participants (6-36 years old, males and females;N= 108; 3672 sulci), as well as longitudinal morphologic and behavioral data from a subset of child and adolescent participants scanned at two time points (6-18 years old;N= 44; 2992 sulci). Manually defining thousands of sulci revealed that LPFC sulcal morphology (depth, surface area, and gray matter thickness) differed between children (6-11 years old)/adolescents (11-18 years old) and young adults (22-36 years old) cross-sectionally, but only cortical thickness showed differences across childhood and adolescence and presented longitudinal changes during childhood and adolescence. Furthermore, a data-driven approach relating morphology and cognition identified that longitudinal changes in cortical thickness of four left-hemisphere LPFC sulci predicted longitudinal changes in reasoning performance, a higher-level cognitive ability that relies on LPFC. Contrary to previous findings, these results suggest that sulci may flatten either after this time frame or over a longer longitudinal period of time than previously presented. Crucially, these results also suggest that longitudinal changes in the cortex within specific LPFC sulci are behaviorally meaningful, providing targeted structures, and areas of the cortex, for future neuroimaging studies examining the development of cognitive abilities.

    SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTRecent work has shown that individual differences in neuroanatomical structures (indentations, or sulci) within the lateral PFC are behaviorally meaningful during childhood and adolescence. Here, we describe how specific lateral PFC sulci develop at the level of individual participants for the first time: from both cross-sectional and longitudinal perspectives. Further, we show, also for the first time, that the longitudinal morphologic changes in these structures are behaviorally relevant. These findings lay the foundation for a future avenue to precisely study the development of the cortex and highlight the importance of studying the development of sulci in other cortical expanses and charting how these changes relate to the cognitive abilities those areas support at the level of individual participants.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Prior research indicates that lower resting-state functional coupling between two brain networks, lateral frontoparietal network (LFPN) and default mode network (DMN), relates to cognitive test performance, for children and adults. However, most of the research that led to this conclusion has been conducted with non-representative samples of individuals from higher-income backgrounds, and so further studies including participants from a broader range of socioeconomic backgrounds are required. Here, in a pre-registered study, we analyzed resting-state fMRI from 6839 children ages 9–10 years from the ABCD dataset. For children from households defined as being above poverty (family of 4 with income > $25,000, or family of 5+ with income > $35,000), we replicated prior findings; that is, we found that better performance on cognitive tests correlated with weaker LFPN-DMN coupling. For children from households defined as being in poverty, the direction of association was reversed, on average: better performance was instead directionally related to stronger LFPN-DMN connectivity, though there was considerable variability. Among children in households below poverty, the direction of this association was predicted in part by features of their environments, such as school type and parent-reported neighborhood safety. These results highlight the importance of including representative samples in studies of child cognitive development.

    more » « less