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Socioeconomic Influences on Brain Function: Implications for Health


Muscatell, Keely A. (2018). Socioeconomic Influences on Brain Function: Implications for Health. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1428(1), 14-32.


Socioeconomic-based disparities in physical health outcomes are well established, with individuals from lower socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds being more likely to experience chronic disease morbidity and early mortality compared to those from higher SES strata. While numerous studies in recent decades have focused on understanding the contextual, psychosocial, and biological mechanisms linking SES and health, the neural pathways that contribute to this relationship are currently underinvestigated. The present paper reviews and synthesizes the small number of published studies that have explored links between SES and health-relevant neural functioning. Specifically, current knowledge of the relationship between socioeconomic factors and neural systems that may be affected by low SES contexts, including those related to processing threat and stress, responding to reward, and engaging in emotion regulation, is reviewed. Gaps in our knowledge that could be filled by health neuroscience research are emphasized, in an effort to catalyze future studies in this area. Understanding the neural mechanisms linking SES and health is crucial for building comprehensive models of the pathways by which social inequalities become health inequalities and may help identify novel targets for intervention to prevent health disparities. Health neuroscience research has a critical role to play in this important area of research.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences


Muscatell, Keely A.