Nature Reviews Neuroscience 11, 651-659 (September 2010) | doi:10.1038/nrn2897

Science and societySocioeconomic status and the brain: mechanistic insights from human and animal research

Daniel A. Hackman1, Martha J. Farah1 & Michael J. Meaney2  About the authors


Human brain development occurs within a socioeconomic context and childhood socioeconomic status (SES) influences neural development — particularly of the systems that subserve language and executive function. Research in humans and in animal models has implicated prenatal factors, parent–child interactions and cognitive stimulation in the home environment in the effects of SES on neural development. These findings provide a unique opportunity for understanding how environmental factors can lead to individual differences in brain development, and for improving the programmes and policies that are designed to alleviate SES-related disparities in mental health and academic achievement.

Author affiliations

  1. Daniel A. Hackman and Martha J. Farah are at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Center for Neuroscience and Society, Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, 3720 Walnut Street, Room B51, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6241, USA.
  2. Michael J. Meaney is at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec H4H 1R3, Canada; Sackler Program for Epigenetics and Psychobiology at McGill University, Montrea, Quebec H3A 2T5, Canada and the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, 30 Medical Drive, Singapore 117609.

Correspondence to: Michael J. Meaney2 Email:


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