Brain imaging studies have a diversity problem.
That’s what researchers concluded after they re-analyzed data from a large study that used MRI to measure brain development in children from 3 to 18.
Like most brain imaging studies of children, this one included a disproportionate number of kids who have highly educated parents with relatively high household incomes, the team reported Thursday in the journal Nature Communications.
For example, parents of study participants were three times more likely than typical U.S. parents to hold an advanced degree. And participants’ family incomes were much more likely to exceed $100,000 a year.
So the researchers decided to see whether the results would be different if the sample represented the U.S. population, says Kaja LeWinn, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. “We were able to weight that data so it looked more like the U.S.” in terms of race, income, education and other variables, she says.
And when the researchers did that, the picture of “normal” brain development changed dramatically.