Background. Relatively lower executive functioning is characteristic of individuals with schizophrenia. As low socio-economic status (SES) early in life (i.e. parent SES) has been linked with lower executive skills in healthy children, we hypothesized that parental SES (pSES) would be more strongly related to executive functioning in individuals with schizophrenia than in controls and have a greater impact on prefrontal cortical morphology.
Method. Healthy controls (n = 125) and individuals with schizophrenia (n = 102) completed tests assessing executive functioning and intelligence. The groups were matched on pSES, which was evaluated with the Hollingshead-Redlich scale. A principal components analysis (PCA) was conducted on 10 variables from six executive tests, yielding three specific components (fluency, planning and response inhibition). Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was used to evaluate effects of pSES on gray matter (GM) concentration.
Results. Lower pSES was associated with lower scores across the three executive functioning components, and a significant group by pSES interaction was observed such that low pSES, in particular, affected individuals with schizophrenia. These effects remained significant when intellectual ability, education and self-SES (sSES) were added as covariates. VBM revealed that lower pSES was associated with reduced GM volume in several anterior brain regions, especially the superior frontal gyrus, in patients but not in controls.
Conclusions. These findings suggest that individuals with schizophrenia may be particularly vulnerable to the adverse impact of low pSES, in terms of both lower executive skills and reduced anterior GM volumes.
- Executive function
- frontal lobes
- socio-economic status
- voxel-based morphometry