Brain development is exquisitely sensitive to psychosocial experiences, with implications for neurodevelopmental trajectories, for better or worse. The premise of this investigation was that the level of responsibility in adolescence may relate to brain structure and higher-order cognitive functions. In a sample of 108 adolescents, we focused on cortical thickness (using FreeSurfer) as an indicator of neurodevelopment in regions previously implicated in executive functioning (EF) and examined performance on an EF task outside of the scanner, in the context of level of responsibility. We further investigated whether socioeconomic status (SES) and family stress moderated the relationship between responsibility and brain structure or EF. Findings revealed that greater responsibility was related to thinner left precuneus and right middle frontal cortex. In lower SES adolescents, greater responsibility predicted thinner left precuneus and right middle frontal cortex, which have been consistently implicated in EF. Higher SES adolescents did not show structural differences related to responsibility, however, they did exhibit better EF performance. It may be that circumstances surrounding the need for greater responsibility in lower SES households are detrimental to neurodevelopment compared to higher SES households. Alternatively, responsibility may act as a protective factor that bolsters cortical thinning in regions related to EF.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Developmental Biology
- Behavioral Neuroscience