Early life socioeconomic status, chronic physiological stress and hippocampal N-acetyl aspartate concentrations.


OBJECTIVE: Early life socioeconomic deprivation has been associated with cognitive and behavioural changes that persist through towards adulthood. In this study, we investigated whether early life socioeconomic status is associated with changes in the hippocampus N-acetyl aspartate (NAA), using the non-invasive technique of magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). METHODS: We performed proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy ((1)H-MRS) of the hippocampus at 3T in 30 adult males, selected from the PSOBID cohort. We conducted multiple regression analysis to examine the relationship between early socioeconomic status (SES) and concentration of N-acetyl-aspartate in the hippocampus. We also examined whether the relationship between these variables was mediated by markers of chronic physiological stress. RESULTS: Greater socioeconomic deprivation was associated with lower hippocampal NAA concentrations bilaterally. The relationship between early life SES and hippocampal NAA concentrations was mediated by allostatic load index - a marker of chronic physiological stress. CONCLUSIONS: Greater early life socioeconomic deprivation was associated with lower concentrations of NAA reflecting lesser neuronal integrity. This relationship was mediated by greater physiological stress. Further work, to better understand the biological processes underlying the effects of poverty, physiological stress on hippocampal metabolites is necessary.