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Global urbanicity is associated with brain and behaviour in young people

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Early online date28 Oct 2021
Accepted/In press2021
E-pub ahead of print28 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This work was partly supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (grant no. 2018YFC1314301 to C.Y.), National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 82001797 to J.X., 82030053 to C.Y., 81801687 to Q. Li and 81701668 to H.L.), National Key Research and Development Program of China (grant no. 2017YFA0604401 to L.Y. and 2019YFA0606601 to L.Y.), National Key Scientific and Technological Infrastructure project ‘Earth System Science Numerical Simulator Facility’ (EarthLab), European Union-funded FP6 Integrated Project IMAGEN (Reinforcement-related behaviour in normal brain function and psychopathology) (LSHM-CT-2007-037286), the Horizon 2020 funded ERC Advanced Grant ‘STRATIFY’ (Brain network based stratification of reinforcement-related disorders) (695313), ERANID (Understanding the Interplay between Cultural, Biological and Subjective Factors in Drug Use Pathways) (PR-ST-0416-10004), Human Brain Project (HBP SGA 2, 785907 and HBP SGA 3, 945539), Medical Research Council Grant ‘c-VEDA’ (Consortium on Vulnerability to Externalizing Disorders and Addictions) (MR/ N000390/1), National Institute of Health (NIH) (R01DA049238, A decentralized macro and micro gene-by-environment interaction analysis of substance use behaviour and its brain biomarkers), National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London, Bundesministeriumfür Bildung und Forschung (BMBF grants 01GS08152; 01EV0711; Forschungsnetz AERIAL 01EE1406A, 01EE1406B), Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG grants SM 80/7-2, SFB 940, TRR 265, NE 1383/14-1), Medical Research Foundation and Medical Research Council (grants MR/R00465X/1 and MR/S020306/1) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded ENIGMA (grants 5U54EB020403-05 and 1R56AG058854-01). Further support was provided by grants from the ANR (ANR-12-SAMA-0004, AAPG2019-GeBra), Eranet Neuron (AF12-NEUR0008-01-WM2NA; and ANR-18-NEUR00002-01-ADORe), Fondation de France (00081242), Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale (DPA20140629802), Mission Interministérielle de Lutte-contre-les-Drogues-et-les-Conduites-Addictives (MILDECA), Assistance-Publique-Hôpitaux-de-Paris and INSERM (interface grant), Paris Sud University IDEX 2012, Fondation de l’Avenir (grant AP-RM-17-013), Fédération pour la Recherche sur le Cerveau; National Institutes of Health, Science Foundation Ireland (16/ERCD/3797), U.S.A. (Axon, Testosterone and Mental Health during Adolescence; RO1 MH085772-01A1), and NIH Consortium grant U54 EB020403, supported by a cross-NIH alliance that funds Big Data to Knowledge Centres of Excellence and The Science&Technology Development Fund of Tianjin Education Commission for Higher Education (grant no. 2019KJ195 to J.X.). Funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) under Germany’s Excellence Strategy – EXC-2049 – 390688087 Falls mehrere Projekte genannt werden müssen, könnte man das z.B. so gestalten: This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Collaborative Research Grant SFB 958 (to DS (A5), SJS (A3, A6), CR (A5)) and Excellence Strategy’ – EXC-2049––390688087 (to DS, SJS, and CR). The authors thank C. Li, Department of Health Statistics, College of Public Health, Tianjin Medical University for statistical advice. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. Publisher Copyright: © 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.


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    Uploaded date:02 Nov 2021

    Version:Accepted author manuscript

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King's Authors


Urbanicity is a growing environmental challenge for mental health. Here, we investigate correlations of urbanicity with brain structure and function, neuropsychology and mental illness symptoms in young people from China and Europe (total n = 3,867). We developed a remote-sensing satellite measure (UrbanSat) to quantify population density at any point on Earth. UrbanSat estimates of urbanicity were correlated with brain volume, cortical surface area and brain network connectivity in the medial prefrontal cortex and cerebellum. UrbanSat was also associated with perspective-taking and depression symptoms, and this was mediated by neural variables. Urbanicity effects were greatest when urban exposure occurred in childhood for the cerebellum, and from childhood to adolescence for the prefrontal cortex. As UrbanSat can be generalized to different geographies, it may enable assessments of correlations of urbanicity with mental illness and resilience globally.

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