Having rich parents doesn’t just buy an expensive education and exciting holidays abroad. It may also purchase more brainpower.
A study found the children from wealthy families have bigger brains than their poorer counterparts.
Brain regions key to academic success were particularly large, the journal Nature Neuroscience reports.
Interestingly, the study also revealed that money matters more than parental background when it comes to nourishing the young mind.
In one of the first studies of its kind, the US researchers put more than 1,000 healthy children and teenagers through brain scanners and quizzed their parents on their background and income.
The youngsters, who were between three and 20 years old, also did tests of memory and something called executive function.
This term covers the mental skills that are used to weigh up options, prioritise, multi-task and plan ahead.
Children with poor executive function may struggle to memorise information and be more likely to get into fights.
Analysis showed important brain areas to be bigger in children whose parents had been to university than those whose education had finished when they left school.
However, parental income was even more important.
Brain areas key to language and executive function were bigger in children from wealthier families. These youngsters also did better in the mental tests.
Researcher Dr Elizabeth Sowell, of the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, said: ‘Our data suggest that wider access to resources likely afforded by the more affluent may lead to differences in a child’s brain structure.
She said that growing up in a household that is free of the stress of struggling to make ends meet is also likely to foster brain development.
Researcher Dr Kimberley Noble, of Columbia University in New York, said that despite the clear impact of socio-economic status on the young mind, it would be wrong to think that the changes are fixed.
She said: ‘This is the critical point. The brain is the product of both genetics and experience and experience is particularly powerful in moulding brain development in childhood.
‘This suggests that interventions to improve socioeconomic circumstance, family life and/or educational opportunity can make a vast difference.’