Decades of research have highlighted the damaging effects of disadvantaged neighborhood contexts on later health outcomes, including youth antisocial behaviors (ASB) such as assault, theft, and vandalism. Although few would now contest the behavioral sequelae of neighborhood disadvantage, the mechanism(s) driving these effects are as yet unclear. Studies linking youth ASB to alterations in the function, structure, and connectivity of affect- and cognitive control-related neural regions represent a very promising possibility, since these same neural processes appear to be altered by chronically stressful experiences including disadvantage. Although potentially quite consequential, conclusions regarding the `biological embedding of disadvantage' as a pathway to ASB remain uncertain, as we have yet to either identify the specific neural mechanisms through which neighborhood disadvantage increases youth ASB or to illuminate how disadvantage alters these particular neural pathways. The current R01 application aims to do just this. We will first identify the neural regulatory control architecture (RCA) associated with both youth ASB and neighborhood disadvantage. We will then leverage the genetically-informed nature of our one-of-a-kind at-risk, longitudinal twin study to illuminate both the genetic and environmental origins of RCA and the ways in which these influences are altered by neighborhood disadvantage, both concurrently and over time. For our final set of analyses, we will explore specific proximal processes through which neighborhood disadvantage might affect neural RCA (i.e., toxicant exposure and parenting). The proposed study is thus ideally positioned to not only identify the specific neural pathways through which neighborhood disadvantage affects youth outcomes, but also to meaningfully evaluate how neighborhood disadvantage affects the developing brain. This genetically-informed developmental neuroscience approach should fundamentally advance our understanding of both the neural pathways leading to the emergence of youth ASB, and the mechanisms through which neighborhood disadvantage undermines positive development.
The proposed R01 will illuminate, for the very first time, the etiologic processes through which disadvantaged neighborhood contexts shape the developing brain and increase developmental risk for youth antisocial behavior.