According to scientists, living in a low-income area not only impacts one's financial status but also affects eating habits, weight gain, and brain architecture.
The UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine study, published in Communications Medicine, finds that the availability of low-quality foods, an increase in the consumption of trans-fatty acid-rich foods, and environments that discourage physical activity—all of which are common in underprivileged areas—disrupt the brain's ability to process information in a flexible manner, which is crucial for reward, emotion control, and cognition.
In this study, researchers examined the brain's cortex to ascertain how living in an impoverished region might alter particular brain areas that perform distinct roles. Previous studies have shown that disadvantaged neighborhoods can influence brain health.
Arpana Gupta, co-director of the Goodman-Luskin Center and director of the neuroimaging core, reports that they discovered changes in the fine structure of the brain's cortex to be connected with neighborhood disadvantage. Some of these variations were associated with more significant body mass index and large intakes of trans fatty acids, which are present in fried fast food.
"Our results suggest that regions of the brain involved in reward, emotion, and the acquisition of knowledge and understanding might be affected by aspects of neighborhood disadvantage that contribute to obesity."Senior author Gupta
She continues that it is critical to address nutritional quality concerns in underprivileged areas to preserve brain function.
Who was involved in the research?
"Neighborhood disadvantage" refers to a confluence of elements, including low median income, low education level, crowded living conditions, and incomplete plumbing. Ninety-two participants in this research were from the greater Los Angeles area, including 27 males and 65 women.
Data on demographics and BMI were gathered, and each community's neighborhood deprivation index (ADI) was calculated using the Neighborhood Atlas from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine's Public Health Department.
Following earlier research, individuals who live in underprivileged areas are more likely to become obese because of the low quality of the food options, the increased consumption of calories from foods high in trans-fatty acids, and the absence of conditions that promote physical activity.
To more thoroughly examine the relationships between neighborhood disadvantage and brain anatomy, researchers in this study concentrated on the association between ADI and neuroimaging findings at four layers of the frontal cortex.
Participants got two different MRI scans that, when combined and evaluated, revealed information on the brain's anatomy, signaling, and function.
According to the study's lead author, Lisa Kilpatrick, diverse cell populations may be found in the cortex's many layers, which have various signaling systems and information-processing capabilities.
Kilpatrick continues by saying that studying the microstructure at various cortical levels aids in understanding changes to cell populations, processes, and communication pathways that may be impacted by living in a low-income area.
The findings showed lower ADI evaluations were related to communication alterations in social interaction-related brain areas. Other alterations appeared to be influenced by trans-fatty acid consumption and occurred in areas related to reward, emotion regulation, and higher cognitive functions.
The results imply that elements common in low-income areas that promote unhealthy eating habits and weight increase interfere with the flexibility of information processing involved in motivation, emotion control, and cognition.
- Communications Medicine. Mediation of the association between disadvantaged neighborhoods and cortical microstructure by body mass index.
- Office of Policy Development and Research - HUD. Understanding Neighborhood Effects of Concentrated Poverty.