The Impact of Socioeconomic Status on the Neural Substrates Associated with Pleasure

Michael E Silverman*, 1, Peter Muennig2, Xun Liu3, Zohn Rosen4, Martin A Goldstein5
1 Department of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York USA
2 Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, New York USA
3 Department of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York USA
4 Psychology Department, City University of New York, Brooklyn, New York USA
5 Department of Neurology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York USA

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© Silverman et al; Licensee Bentham Open

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, One Gustave L. Levy Place, Department of Psychiatry, Box 1230, New York, New York, 10029, USA; Tel: (212) 659-8813; E-mail:
This study was funded by Grant Number MO1-RR-00071 from the National Center for Research Resources.


Low socio-economic status (SES) is associated with increased morbidity and premature mortality. Because tonic adversity relates to a diminished ability to experience pleasure, we hypothesized that subjects living in poverty would show diminished neural responsivity to positive stimuli in regions associated with positive experience and reward. Visual images were presented to twenty-two subjects in the context of a EPI-BOLD fMRI paradigm. Significant differences in neural responses between SES groups to poverty vs. neutral images were assessed, examining group, condition, and interaction effects. The data suggest that persons living in low-SES have neural experiences consistent with diminished interest in things generally enjoyed and point toward a possible explanation for the relationship between socioeconomic inequalities and mood disorders, such as depression, by SES.

Keywords: fMRI, depression, mood, stress, socio-economic status.