Imaging social and environmental factors as modulators of brain dysfunction: time to focus on developing, non-Western societies

Nicolas A. Crossley, Luz Maria Alliende, Tomas Ossandon, Carmen Paz Castañeda, Alfonso González-Valderrama, Juan Undurraga, Mariana Castro, Salvador Guinjoan, Ana M. Díaz-Zuluaga, Julián A. Pineda-Zapata, Carlos López-Jaramillo, Francisco Reyes-Madrigal, Pablo León-Ortíz, Camilo de la Fuente-Sandoval, Leticia Sanguinetti Czepielewski, Clarissa S. Gama, Andre Zugman, Ary Gadelha, Andrea Jackowski, Rodrigo Bressan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
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Social and environmental factors are known risk factors and modulators of mental health disorders. We here conducted a non-systematic review of the neuroimaging literature studying the effects of poverty, urbanicity and community violence, highlighting the opportunities of studying non-Western, developing societies, such as those in Latin America. Social and environmental factors in these communities are widespread and have a large magnitude, as well as an unequal distribution, providing a good opportunity for their characterization. Studying the effect of poverty in these settings could help explore the brain effect of economic improvements, disentangle the effect of absolute and relative poverty, and characterize the modulating impact of poverty on the underlying biology of mental health disorders. Exploring urbanicity effects in highly unequal cities could help identify the specific factors that modulate this effect, as well as examining a possible dose-response by studying mega-cities. Studying brain changes in those living among violence, which is particularly high in places such as Latin America, could help characterize the interplay between brain predisposition and exposure to violence. Furthermore, exploring the brain in an adverse environment will shed light on the mechanisms underlying resilience. We finally provide examples of two methodological approaches that could contribute to this field, namely a big cohort study in the developing world and a consortium-based meta-analytic approach, and argue about the potential translational value of this research on the development of effective social policies and successful personalized medicine in disadvantaged societies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 25 Sept 2018


  • Neuroimaging
  • psychiatric disorders
  • poverty
  • urbanicity
  • violence
  • developing world


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