Publications by authors named "Natalie H Brito"

23 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Changes in social support of pregnant and postnatal mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Midwifery 2021 Dec 1;103:103162. Epub 2021 Oct 1.

Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, University of Southern California, 1540 Alcazar St, CHP 155, Los Angeles, CA, 90033, United States; Department of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, 1975 Zonal Ave Los Angeles, California, 90033, United States; Division of Research on Children, Youth, and Families, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, 4650 Sunset Blvd Los Angeles, CA, 90027, United States; Developmental Neuroscience and Neurogenetics Program, The Saban Research Institute, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, 4650 Sunset Blvd Los Angeles, California, 90027, United States.

Objective: Our objectives were to assess in perinatal women: the most effective methods used to meet social support needs during COVID-19, the impact of COVID-19 on self-reported social support levels, and how perceived change in social support related to distress, depression, and mental health.

Design: One-time survey administered from April to August 2020 SETTING: Online PARTICIPANTS: Pregnant and postpartum women with infants less than 6 months of age MEASUREMENT AND FINDINGS: Participants indicated the methods they used to meet social support needs during COVID-19. They self-rated their social support level pre- and during pandemic and their distress, depressive symptoms, and mental health changes on a Likert scale. Out of 1142 participants, the most effective methods for obtaining social support during the pandemic were virtual means (e.g. video call) and interaction with friends. There was a significant difference in distribution of self-reported levels of social support before and during the pandemic, with more respondents reporting a decrease in support. Decreases in social support were associated with higher distress levels, higher levels of depressive symptoms, and poorer mental health.

Key Conclusions: Perinatal women reported decreased social support during the COVID-19 pandemic which was associated with poorer mental health. Using virtual means of social support and support provided by friends had the largest positive effect on perceived social support levels.

Implications For Practice: Interventions using virtual support means from friends may be helpful to improve social support and mental health in this population.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2021.103162DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8485715PMC
December 2021

Innovative methods for remote assessment of neurobehavioral development.

Dev Cogn Neurosci 2021 Sep 22;52:101015. Epub 2021 Sep 22.

Oregon Health & Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, Portland, OR 97239, USA; Oregon National Primate Research Center, 505 NW 185th Avenue, Beaverton, OR 97006, USA. Electronic address:

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, research institutions across the globe have modified their operations in ways that have limited or eliminated the amount of permissible in-person research interaction. In order to prevent the loss of important developmentally-timed data during the pandemic, researchers have quickly pivoted and developed innovative methods for remote assessment of research participants. In this manuscript, we describe methods developed for remote assessment of a parent child cohort with a focus on examining the perinatal environment, behavioral and biological indicators of child neurobehavioral development, parent-child interaction, as well as parent and child mental and physical health. We include recommendations relevant to adapting in-laboratory assessments for remote data collection and conclude with a description of the successful dissemination of the methods to eight research sites across the United States, each of whom are involved in Phase 1 of the HEALthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) Study. These remote methods were born out of pandemic-related necessity; however, they have much wider applicability and may offer advantages over in-laboratory neurodevelopmental assessments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2021.101015DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8483646PMC
September 2021

Miswiring the brain: Human prenatal Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol use associated with altered fetal hippocampal brain network connectivity.

Dev Cogn Neurosci 2021 10 6;51:101000. Epub 2021 Aug 6.

Department of Psychology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA.

Increasing evidence supports a link between maternal prenatal cannabis use and altered neural and physiological development of the child. However, whether cannabis use relates to altered human brain development prior to birth, and specifically, whether maternal prenatal cannabis use relates to connectivity of fetal functional brain systems, remains an open question. The major objective of this study was to identify whether maternal prenatal cannabis exposure (PCE) is associated with variation in human brain hippocampal functional connectivity prior to birth. Prenatal drug toxicology and fetal fMRI data were available in a sample of 115 fetuses [43 % female; mean age 32.2 weeks (SD = 4.3)]. Voxelwise hippocampal connectivity analysis in a subset of age and sex-matched fetuses revealed that PCE was associated with alterations in fetal dorsolateral, medial and superior frontal, insula, anterior temporal, and posterior cingulate connectivity. Classification of group differences by age 5 outcomes suggest that compared to the non-PCE group, the PCE group is more likely to have increased connectivity to regions associated with less favorable outcomes and to have decreased connectivity to regions associated with more favorable outcomes. This is preliminary evidence that altered fetal neural connectome may contribute to neurobehavioral vulnerability observed in children exposed to cannabis in utero.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2021.101000DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8363827PMC
October 2021

Social determinants of health exacerbate disparities in COVID-19 illness severity and lasting symptom complaints.

medRxiv 2021 Jul 19. Epub 2021 Jul 19.

Background: Increasing reports of long-term symptoms following COVID-19 infection, even among mild cases, necessitates systematic investigation into the prevalence and type of lasting illness. Notably, there is limited data regarding the influence of social determinants of health, like perceived discrimination and economic stress, which may exacerbate COVID-19 health risks. The primary goals of this study are to test the bearing of subjective experiences of discrimination, financial security, and quality of care on illness severity and lasting symptom complaints.

Methods: 1,584 recovered COVID-19 patients that experienced mild to severe forms of the disease provided information about their illness, medical history, lasting symptoms, and psychosocial information. Prevalence data isolated differences in patients infected early versus late in the pandemic. Path analyses examined hypothesized associations between discrimination, illness severity, and lasting symptoms. logistic regressions tested social determinants hypothesized to predict neurological, cognitive, or mood symptoms.

Results: 70.6% of patients reported presence of one or more lasting symptoms after recovery. Neural systems were especially impacted, and 19.4% and 25.1% of patients reported mood or cognitive/memory complaints, respectively. Path models demonstrated that frequency and stress about experiences of discrimination predicted increased illness severity and increased lasting symptom count, even when adjusting for sociodemographic factors and mental/physical health comorbidities. Notably, this effect was specific to stress related to discrimination, and did not extend to general stress levels. Further, perceived but not objective socioeconomic status (SES) was associated with increased lasting symptom complaints after recovery. Finally, associations between discrimination and illness differed with individual perceptions about quality of medical care.

Conclusions: Lasting symptoms after recovery from COVID-19 are highly prevalent and neural systems are significantly impacted. Importantly, psychosocial factors (perceived discrimination and perceived SES) can exacerbate individual health risk. This study provides actionable directions for improved health outcomes by establishing that sociodemographic risk and medical care influence near and long-ranging health outcomes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2021.07.16.21260638DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8312905PMC
July 2021

Within-person changes in basal cortisol and caregiving modulate executive attention across infancy.

Dev Psychopathol 2021 Jul 2:1-14. Epub 2021 Jul 2.

Department of Applied Psychology, New York University, New York, USA.

One pathway by which environments of socioeconomic risk are thought to affect cognitive development is through stress physiology. The biological systems underpinning stress and attention undergo a sensitive period of development during infancy. Psychobiological theory emphasizes a dynamic pattern of context-dependent development, however, research has yet to examine how basal cortisol and attention dynamically covary across infancy in ecologically valid contexts. Thus, to address these gaps, we leveraged longitudinal, multilevel analytic methods to disentangle between- from within-person associations of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity and executive attention behaviors across infancy. We use data from a large longitudinal sample (N = 1,292) of infants in predominantly low-income, nonurban communities at 7-, 15-, and 24-months of age. Using multilevel models, we investigated longitudinal associations of infant attention and basal cortisol levels and examined caregiving behaviors as moderators of this relationship. Results indicated a negative between- and within-person association between attention and cortisol across infancy and a within-person moderation by caregiver responsiveness. In other words, on the within-person level, higher levels of cortisol were concomitantly associated with lower infant attention across the first 2 years of life. However, variation in the caregiver's level of responsiveness either buffered or sensitized the executive attention system to the negative effects of physiological stress.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579421000262DOI Listing
July 2021

Associations between Bilingualism and Memory Generalization During Infancy: Does Socioeconomic Status Matter?

Biling (Camb Engl) 2021 Mar 22;24(2):231-240. Epub 2020 May 22.

Department of Biobehavioral Sciences, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY, 10027.

Past studies have reported memory differences between monolingual and bilingual infants (Brito & Barr, 2012; Singh et al., 2015). A common critique within the bilingualism literature is the absence of socioeconomic indicators and/or a lack of socioeconomic diversity among participants. Previous research has demonstrated robust bilingual differences in memory generalization from 6- to 24-months of age. The goal of the current study was to examine if these findings would replicate in a sample of 18-month-old monolingual and bilingual infants from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds (N = 92). Results indicate no differences between language groups on working memory or cued recall, but significant differences for memory generalization, with bilingual infants outperforming monolingual infants regardless of socioeconomic status (SES). These findings replicate and extend results from past studies (Brito & Barr, 2012; Brito, Sebastián-Gallés, & Barr, 2015) and suggest possible differential learning patterns dependent on linguistic experience.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/s1366728920000334DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7995805PMC
March 2021

Optimizing imitation: Examining cognitive factors leading to imitation, overimitation, and goal emulation in preschoolers.

J Exp Child Psychol 2021 03 3;203:105036. Epub 2020 Dec 3.

Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20007, USA. Electronic address:

Humans imitate patently irrelevant actions known as overimitation, and rather than decreasing with age, overimitation increases with age. Whereas most overimitation research has focused on social factors associated with overimitation, comparatively little is known about the cognitive- and task-specific features that influence overimitation. Specifically, developmental contrasts between imitation and overimitation are confounded by the addition of irrelevant actions to causally necessary actions, increasing sequence length, cognitive load, and processing costs-variables known to be age dependent. We constructed a novel puzzle box task such that a four-step imitation, four-step overimitation, and two-step efficient sequence could be demonstrated using the same apparatus on video. In Experiments 1 and 2, 2.5- to 5-year-olds randomly assigned to imitation and overimitation groups performed significantly more target actions than baseline control groups. Rates of imitation and overimitation increased as a function of age, with older preschoolers outperforming younger preschoolers in both conditions. In Experiment 3, preschoolers were shown a video of an efficient two-step demonstration prior to testing. After they responded, they were shown a four-step overimitation video and were tested on the same puzzle box. Children imitated the efficient demonstration, but after watching the overimitation video, they also overimitated the irrelevant actions. Once again, older children overimitated more than younger children. Together, results show that preschoolers are faithful, flexible, and persistent overimitators. The fidelity and flexibility of overimitation are constrained not only by social factors but also by basic cognitive processes that vary across age groups. As these constraints diminish, overimitation and flexible (optimal) imitation increases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2020.105036DOI Listing
March 2021

Early Life Stress and the Development of the Infant Gut Microbiota: Implications for Mental Health and Neurocognitive Development.

Curr Psychiatry Rep 2020 09 12;22(11):61. Epub 2020 Sep 12.

Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Purpose Of Review: We review the state of the literature examining associations between early life stress (ELS), gut microbiota, and neurocognitive development and mental health in animals and humans. We identify gaps in current models and areas for future research.

Recent Findings: ELS is associated with changes in gut microbiota, which correspond to changes in affective and cognitive functioning in both animals and humans. Some of these ELS-induced psychological changes can be remedied by supplementation with probiotics in early life, suggesting a potential area for intervention for ELS-exposed children. Prenatal stress exposure is rarely studied in humans in relation to gut microbiota, but animal work has suggested important associations between prenatal stress and fetal programming that should be tested in humans. The gut microbiota plays an important role in the association between ELS, neurocognitive development, and mental health. More work is needed to fully understand these associations in humans.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11920-020-01186-9DOI Listing
September 2020

Associations among the home language environment and neural activity during infancy.

Dev Cogn Neurosci 2020 06 25;43:100780. Epub 2020 Apr 25.

Department of Biobehavioral Sciences, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY, 10027, United States.

Characteristics of the home language environment, independent of socioeconomic background, may account for disparities in early language abilities. Past studies have reported links between the quantity of language input within the home and differences in brain function during early childhood. The current study examined associations between home language input and EEG brain activity in a socioeconomically diverse sample of 6- to 12-month-old infants (N = 94). Replicating past studies, a positive correlation was found between measures of socioeconomic status and language input. Examining links between language input and brain activity, analyses yielded a negative association, with children who heard more adult words in the home demonstrating reduced EEG beta power (13-19 Hz) in the parietal region. Exploratory analyses revealed a significant interaction between language input and the amount of chaos and disorganization in the home. Specifically, among children living in high-chaos households, children who heard more adult words tended to have reduced EEG activity. Among children living in low-chaos homes, there was no link between adult word count and children's EEG activity. These findings demonstrate the importance of the early home environment context in shaping neurocognitive trajectories.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2020.100780DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7200831PMC
June 2020

Infants of mothers with higher physiological stress show alterations in brain function.

Dev Sci 2020 11 13;23(6):e12976. Epub 2020 May 13.

Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.

Chronic stress has been increasingly linked with aberrations in children's behavioral, cognitive, and social development, yet the effect of chronic physiological stress on neural development during the first year of life is largely unknown. The present study aims to link a physiological index of chronic stress (maternal hair cortisol concentration) to maturational differences in infant functional brain development during the first year of life. Participants were 94 mother-infant dyads. To index chronic physiological stress, maternal hair samples were assayed for the previous three months' cortisol output. To examine the development of brain function during the first year of life, six-to-twelve-month-old infants (N = 94) completed a resting electroencephalography (EEG) recording. Infants of mothers with evidence of higher physiological stress showed increased relative low-frequency (theta) power and reduced relative high-frequency (alpha, high-gamma) power, compared to infants of mothers with evidence of low physiological stress. This pattern of findings is consistent with other studies suggesting that early life stress may lead to alterations in patterns of infant brain development. These findings are important given that maturational lags in brain development can be long-lasting and are associated with deficits in cognitive and emotional development. The present research also suggests that reducing maternal physiological stress may be a useful target for future interventions aiming to foster neurodevelopment during the first year of life.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/desc.12976DOI Listing
November 2020

Actions speak louder than words: Differences in memory flexibility between monolingual and bilingual 18-month-olds.

Dev Sci 2020 03 4;23(2):e12881. Epub 2019 Jul 4.

Georgetown University, Washington, District of Columbia.

Bilingual infants from 6- to 24-months of age are more likely to generalize, flexibly reproducing actions on novel objects significantly more often than age-matched monolingual infants are. In the current study, we examine whether the addition of novel verbal labels enhances memory generalization in a perceptually complex imitation task. We hypothesized that labels would provide an additional retrieval cue and aid memory generalization for bilingual infants. Specifically, we hypothesized that bilinguals might be more likely than monolinguals to map multiple perceptual features onto a novel label and therefore show enhanced generalization. Eighty-seven 18-month-old monolingual and bilingual infants were randomly assigned to one of two experimental conditions or a baseline control condition. In the experimental conditions, either no label or a novel label was added during demonstration and again at the beginning of the test session. After a 24-hr delay, infants were tested with the same stimulus set to test cued recall and with a perceptually different but functionally equivalent stimulus set to test memory generalization. Bilinguals performed significantly above baseline on both cued recall and memory generalization in both experimental conditions, whereas monolinguals performed significantly above baseline only on cued recall in both experimental conditions. These findings show a difference between monolinguals and bilinguals in memory generalization and suggest that generalization differences between groups may arise from visual perceptual processing rather than linguistic processing. A video abstract of this article can be viewed at https://youtu.be/yXB4pM3fF2k.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/desc.12881DOI Listing
March 2020

Neonatal EEG linked to individual differences in socioemotional outcomes and autism risk in toddlers.

Dev Psychobiol 2019 12 11;61(8):1110-1119. Epub 2019 Jun 11.

Department of Pediatrics, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York.

Research using electroencephalography (EEG) as a measure of brain function and maturation has demonstrated links between cortical activity and cognitive processes during infancy and early childhood. The current study examines whether neonatal EEG is correlated with later atypical socioemotional behaviors or neurocognitive delays. Parental report developmental assessments were administered to families with children ages 24 to 36 months who had previously participated in a neonatal EEG study (N = 129). Significant associations were found between neonatal EEG (higher frequencies in the frontal polar, temporal, and parietal brain regions) and BITSEA ASD risk scores. Infants with lower EEG power in these brain areas were more likely to have higher risk of socioemotional problems. When examining sex differences, significant links were found for males but not for females. These results demonstrate some promising associations between early neural biomarkers and later risk for atypical behaviors, which may shape early neurobehavioral development and could lead to earlier identification and intervention.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.21870DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6874708PMC
December 2019

Beyond the Bayley: Neurocognitive Assessments of Development During Infancy and Toddlerhood.

Dev Neuropsychol 2019 Mar-Apr;44(2):220-247. Epub 2019 Jan 7.

l Department of Psychology , University of Kansas , Lawrence , KS , USA.

The use of global, standardized instruments is conventional among clinicians and researchers interested in assessing neurocognitive development. Exclusively relying on these tests for evaluating effects may underestimate or miss specific effects on early cognition. The goal of this review is to identify alternative measures for possible inclusion in future clinical trials and interventions evaluating early neurocognitive development. The domains included for consideration are attention, memory, executive function, language, and socioemotional development. Although domain-based tests are limited, as psychometric properties have not yet been well-established, this review includes tasks and paradigms that have been reliably used across various developmental psychology laboratories.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/87565641.2018.1564310DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6399032PMC
June 2019

The independent and interacting effects of socioeconomic status and dual-language use on brain structure and cognition.

Dev Sci 2018 11 7;21(6):e12688. Epub 2018 Jun 7.

Department of Biobehavioral Sciences, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, USA.

Family socioeconomic status (SES) is strongly associated with children's cognitive development, and past studies have reported socioeconomic disparities in both neurocognitive skills and brain structure across childhood. In other studies, bilingualism has been associated with cognitive advantages and differences in brain structure across the lifespan. The aim of the current study is to concurrently examine the joint and independent associations between family SES and dual-language use with brain structure and cognitive skills during childhood. A subset of data from the Pediatric Imaging, Neurocognition and Genetics (PING) study was analyzed; propensity score matching established an equal sample (N = 562) of monolinguals and dual-language users with similar socio-demographic characteristics (M = 13.5, Range = 3-20 years). When collapsing across all ages, SES was linked to both brain structure and cognitive skills. When examining differences by age group, brain structure was significantly associated with both income and dual-language use during adolescence, but not earlier in childhood. Additionally, in adolescence, a significant interaction between dual-language use and SES was found, with no difference in cortical surface area (SA) between language groups of higher-SES backgrounds but significantly increased SA for dual-language users from lower-SES families compared to SES-matched monolinguals. These results suggest both independent and interacting associations between SES and dual-language use with brain development. To our knowledge, this is the first study to concurrently examine dual-language use and socioeconomic differences in brain structure during childhood and adolescence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/desc.12688DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6202148PMC
November 2018

Associations between cortical thickness and neurocognitive skills during childhood vary by family socioeconomic factors.

Brain Cogn 2017 08 2;116:54-62. Epub 2017 Apr 2.

Department of Biobehavioral Sciences, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, United States. Electronic address:

Studies have reported associations between cortical thickness (CT) and socioeconomic status (SES), as well as between CT and cognitive outcomes. However, findings have been mixed as to whether CT explains links between SES and cognitive performance. In the current study, we hypothesized that this inconsistency may have arisen from the fact that socioeconomic factors (family income and parental education) may moderate the relation between CT and neurocognitive skills. Results indicated that associations between CT and cognitive performance did vary by SES for both language and executive function (EF) abilities. Across all ages, there was a negative correlation between CT and cognitive skills, with thinner cortices associated with higher language and EF scores. Similarly, across all cognitive skills, children from higher-SES homes outperformed their age-matched peers from lower-SES homes. Moderation analyses indicated that the impact of SES was not constant across CT, with SES more strongly predictive of EF skills among children with thicker cortices and more strongly predictive of language skills among children with thinner cortices. This suggests that socioeconomic advantage may in some cases buffer against a neurobiological risk factor for poor performance. These findings suggest that links between brain structure and cognitive processes vary by family socioeconomic circumstance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2017.03.007DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6527098PMC
August 2017

Home Environment, But Not Socioeconomic Status, is Linked to Differences in Early Phonetic Perception Ability.

Infancy 2017 Jan-Feb;22(1):42-55. Epub 2016 Mar 31.

Teachers College, Columbia University.

Infants perceptually tune to the phonemes of their native languages in the first year of life, thereby losing the ability to discriminate non-native phonemes. Infants who perceptually tune earlier have been shown to develop stronger language skills later in childhood. We hypothesized that socioeconomic disparities, which have been associated with differences in the quality and quantity of language in the home, would contribute to individual differences in phonetic discrimination. Seventy-five infants were assessed on measures of phonetic discrimination at 9 months, on the quality of the home environment at 15 months, and on language abilities at both ages. Phonetic discrimination did not vary according to socioeconomic status (SES), but was significantly associated with the quality of the home environment. This association persisted when controlling for 9-month expressive language abilities, rendering it less likely that infants with better expressive language skills were simply engendering higher quality home interactions. This suggests that infants from linguistically richer home environments may be more tuned to their native language and therefore less able to discriminate non-native contrasts at 9 months relative to infants whose home environments are less responsive. These findings indicate that home language environments may be more critical than SES in contributing to early language perception, with possible implications for language development more broadly.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/infa.12145DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7458123PMC
March 2016

Do Bilingual advantages in attentional control influence memory encoding during a divided attention task?

Biling (Camb Engl) 2016 May 17;19(3):621-629. Epub 2015 Dec 17.

Georgetown University.

The current study examined if bilingual advantages in cognitive control influence memory encoding during a divided attention task. Monolinguals, simultaneous bilinguals, and sequential bilinguals switched between classifying objects and words, then were tested for their recognition memory of stimuli previously seen during the classification task. Compared to bilingual groups, monolinguals made the most errors on the classification task and simultaneous bilinguals committed the fewest errors. On the memory task, however, no differences were found between the three language groups, but significant correlations were found between the number of errors during switch trials on the classification task and recognition memory for both target and non-target stimuli. For bilinguals, their age of second language acquisition partially accounted for the association between attentional control (number of switch errors) and subsequent memory for non-target stimuli only. These results contribute to our understanding of how individual differences in language acquisition influence interactions between cognitive domains.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1366728915000851DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5525024PMC
May 2016

Associations among family socioeconomic status, EEG power at birth, and cognitive skills during infancy.

Dev Cogn Neurosci 2016 06 14;19:144-51. Epub 2016 Mar 14.

Department of Biobehavioral Sciences, Teachers College Columbia University, New York, NY, United States. Electronic address:

Past research has demonstrated links between cortical activity, measured via EEG power, and cognitive processes during infancy. In a separate line of research, family socioeconomic status (SES) has been strongly associated with children's early cognitive development, with socioeconomic disparities emerging during the second year of life for both language and declarative memory skills. The present study examined associations among resting EEG power at birth, SES, and language and memory skills at 15-months in a sample of full-term infants. Results indicate no associations between SES and EEG power at birth. However, EEG power at birth was related to both language and memory outcomes at 15-months. Specifically, frontal power (24-48Hz) was positively correlated with later Visual Paired Comparison (VPC) memory scores. Power (24-35Hz) in the parietal region was positively correlated with later PLS-Auditory Comprehension language scores. These findings suggest that SES disparities in brain activity may not be apparent at birth, but measures of resting neonatal EEG power are correlated with later memory and language skills independently of SES.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2016.03.004DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4912880PMC
June 2016

Socioeconomic disparities in neurocognitive development in the first two years of life.

Dev Psychobiol 2015 Jul 30;57(5):535-51. Epub 2015 Mar 30.

Center for Health Outcomes and Prevention Research, Sanford Research, Sioux Falls, SD.

Socioeconomic status (SES) is strongly associated with cognition and achievement. Socioeconomic disparities in language and memory skills have been reported from elementary school through adolescence. Less is known about the extent to which such disparities emerge in infancy. Here, 179 infants from socioeconomically diverse families were recruited. Using a cohort-sequential design, 90 infants were followed at 9 and 15 months, and 89 were followed at 15 and 21 months. SES disparities in developmental trajectories of language and memory were present such that, at 21 months of age, children of highly educated parents scored approximately .8 standard deviations higher in both language and memory than children of less educated parents. The home language and literacy environment and parental warmth partially accounted for disparities in language, but not memory development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.21303DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4821066PMC
July 2015

Family income, parental education and brain structure in children and adolescents.

Nat Neurosci 2015 May 30;18(5):773-8. Epub 2015 Mar 30.

1] The Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital, Los Angeles, California, USA. [2] Department of Pediatrics of the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA. [3] The Pediatric Imaging, Neurocognition, and Genetics Study, San Diego, California, USA.

Socioeconomic disparities are associated with differences in cognitive development. The extent to which this translates to disparities in brain structure is unclear. We investigated relationships between socioeconomic factors and brain morphometry, independently of genetic ancestry, among a cohort of 1,099 typically developing individuals between 3 and 20 years of age. Income was logarithmically associated with brain surface area. Among children from lower income families, small differences in income were associated with relatively large differences in surface area, whereas, among children from higher income families, similar income increments were associated with smaller differences in surface area. These relationships were most prominent in regions supporting language, reading, executive functions and spatial skills; surface area mediated socioeconomic differences in certain neurocognitive abilities. These data imply that income relates most strongly to brain structure among the most disadvantaged children.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nn.3983DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4414816PMC
May 2015

Specificity of the bilingual advantage for memory: examining cued recall, generalization, and working memory in monolingual, bilingual, and trilingual toddlers.

Front Psychol 2014 2;5:1369. Epub 2014 Dec 2.

Department of Psychology, Georgetown University Washington, DC, USA.

The specificity of the bilingual advantage in memory was examined by testing groups of monolingual, bilingual, and trilingual 24-month-olds on tasks tapping cued recall, memory generalization and working memory. For the cued recall and memory generalization conditions, there was a 24-h delay between time of encoding and time of retrieval. In addition to the memory tasks, parent-toddler dyads completed a picture-book reading task, in order to observe emotional responsiveness, and a parental report of productive vocabulary. Results indicated no difference between language groups on cued recall, working memory, emotional responsiveness, or productive vocabulary, but a significant difference was found in the memory generalization condition with only the bilingual group outperforming the baseline control group. These results replicate and extend results from past studies (Brito and Barr, 2012, 2014; Brito et al., 2014) and suggest a bilingual advantage specific to memory generalization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01369DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4251311PMC
December 2014

Socioeconomic status and structural brain development.

Front Neurosci 2014 4;8:276. Epub 2014 Sep 4.

Department of Pediatrics, Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center, Columbia University New York, NY, USA.

Recent advances in neuroimaging methods have made accessible new ways of disentangling the complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors that influence structural brain development. In recent years, research investigating associations between socioeconomic status (SES) and brain development have found significant links between SES and changes in brain structure, especially in areas related to memory, executive control, and emotion. This review focuses on studies examining links between structural brain development and SES disparities of the magnitude typically found in developing countries. We highlight how highly correlated measures of SES are differentially related to structural changes within the brain.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2014.00276DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4155174PMC
September 2014
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