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1.  Associations between respiratory sinus arrhythmia reactivity and internalizing and externalizing symptoms are emotion specific 
Internalizing and externalizing disorders are often, though inconsistently in studies of young children, associated with low baseline levels of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). RSA is thus considered to reflect the capacity for flexible and regulated affective reactivity and a general propensity for psychopathology. However, studies assessing RSA reactivity to emotional challenges tend to report more consistent associations with internalizing than with externalizing disorders, although it is unclear whether this is a function of the type of emotion challenges used. In the present study, we examined whether baseline RSA was associated with internalizing and/or externalizing severity in a sample of 273 young children (ages 5–6) with elevated symptoms of psychopathology. Following motivation-based models of emotion, we also tested whether RSA reactivity during withdrawal-based (fear, sadness) and approach-based (happiness, anger) emotion inductions was differentially associated with internalizing and externalizing symptoms, respectively. Baseline RSA was not associated with externalizing or internalizing symptom severity. However, RSA reactivity to specific emotional challenges was associated differentially with each symptom domain. As expected, internalizing symptom severity was associated with greater RSA withdrawal (increased arousal) during fearful and sad film segments. Conversely, externalizing symptom severity was related to blunted RSA withdrawal during a happy film segment. The use of theoretically derived stimuli may be important in characterizing the nature of the deficits in emotion processing that differentiate the internalizing and externalizing domains of psychopathology.
PMCID: PMC4464793  PMID: 23233122
Emotion; Respiratory sinus arrhythmia; Parasympathetic nervous system; Psychopathology; Internalizing; Externalizing
2.  EEG Asymmetry in Borderline Personality Disorder and Depression Following Rejection 
Personality disorders  2013;5(2):178-185.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) share numerous features including dysphoric affect, irritability, suicidality, and a heightened sensitivity to perceived interpersonal rejection. However, these disorders are associated with divergent profiles of reactivity to rejection; individuals with MDD are more likely to respond with withdrawal and isolation, and those with BPD appear to respond with increased approach behaviors and greater hostility. Potential mechanisms underlying these divergent patterns of response have not been elaborated. The goal of the present study was to assess whether prefrontal cortical asymmetry is associated with these behavioral profiles. EEG was recorded at baseline and after individuals with BPD, MDD and healthy controls (HC) participated in a rejection task. While no differences were found at baseline, results demonstrated that, following rejection, individuals with BPD showed greater left cortical activation, consistent with approach motivation, while those with MDD showed greater right-cortical activation, consistent with withdrawal motivation. Healthy controls evidenced a more balanced cortical profile, as hypothesized. Although BPD and MDD are highly comorbid, are easily confused, and are phenomenologically similar in a number of ways, individuals with these two disorders respond in very different ways to perceived rejection.
PMCID: PMC4137775  PMID: 24364503
EEG Asymmetry; Borderline Personality Disorder; Major Depressive Disorder; Social Rejection; Rejection Sensitivity; Approach Motivation
3.  Neurological Correlates of Reward Responding in Adolescents With and Without Externalizing Behavior Disorders 
Journal of abnormal psychology  2009;118(1):203-213.
Opposing theories of striatal hyper- and hypodopaminergic functioning have been suggested in the pathophysiology of externalizing behavior disorders. To test these competing theories, the authors used functional MRI to evaluate neural activity during a simple reward task in 12- to 16-year-old boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and/or conduct disorder (n = 19) and in controls with no psychiatric condition (n = 11). The task proceeded in blocks during which participants received either (a) monetary incentives for correct responses or (b) no rewards for correct responses. Controls exhibited striatal activation only during reward, shifting to anterior cingulate activation during nonreward. In contrast, externalizing adolescents exhibited striatal activation during both reward and nonreward. Externalizing psychopathology appears to be characterized by deficits in processing the omission of predicted reward, which may render behaviors that are acquired through environmental contingencies difficult to extinguish when those contingencies change.
PMCID: PMC2696631  PMID: 19222326
conduct disorder; ADHD; striatum; anterior cingulate cortex; fMRI
4.  Early Adversity, RSA, and Inhibitory Control: Evidence of Children’s Neurobiological Sensitivity to Social Context 
Developmental psychobiology  2013;56(5):964-978.
This study examined parasympathetic physiology as a moderator of the effects of early adversity (i.e., child abuse and neglect) on children’s inhibitory control. Children’s respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) was assessed during a resting baseline, two joint challenge tasks with mother, and an individual frustration task. RSA assessed during each of the joint parent–child challenge tasks moderated the effects of child maltreatment (CM) status on children’s independently-assessed inhibitory control. No moderation effect was found for RSA assessed at baseline or in the child-alone challenge task. Among CM-exposed children, lower RSA levels during the joint task predicted the lowest inhibitory control, whereas higher joint task RSA was linked to higher inhibitory control scores that were indistinguishable from those of non-CM children. Results are discussed with regard to the importance of considering context specificity (i.e., individual and caregiver contexts) in how biomarkers inform our understanding of individual differences in vulnerability among at-risk children.
PMCID: PMC3992193  PMID: 24142832
attention; early experience; electrophysiology; parental care; stress
5.  Instantiating the multiple levels of analysis perspective in a program of study on externalizing behavior 
Development and psychopathology  2012;24(3):1003-1018.
During the last quarter century, developmental psychopathology has become increasingly inclusive and now spans disciplines ranging from psychiatric genetics to primary prevention. As a result, developmental psychopathologists have extended traditional diathesis–stress and transactional models to include causal processes at and across all relevant levels of analysis. Such research is embodied in what is known as the multiple levels of analysis perspective. We describe how multiple levels of analysis research has informed our current thinking about antisocial and borderline personality development among trait impulsive and therefore vulnerable individuals. Our approach extends the multiple levels of analysis perspective beyond simple Biology × Environment interactions by evaluating impulsivity across physiological systems (genetic, autonomic, hormonal, neural), psychological constructs (social, affective, motivational), developmental epochs (preschool, middle childhood, adolescence, adulthood), sexes (male, female), and methods of inquiry (self-report, informant report, treatment outcome, cardiovascular, electrophysiological, neuroimaging). By conducting our research using any and all available methods across these levels of analysis, we have arrived at a developmental model of trait impulsivity that we believe confers a greater understanding of this highly heritable trait and captures at least some heterogeneity in key behavioral outcomes, including delinquency and suicide.
PMCID: PMC4008966  PMID: 22781868
6.  Preschool Children's Cardiac Reactivity Moderates Relations Between Exposure to Family Violence and Emotional Adjustment 
Child maltreatment  2011;16(3):205-215.
This study examined relations between cardiac reactivity, family violence exposure (i.e., child maltreatment [CM] and inter-partner violence [IPV]), and preschool children's emotional adjustment. A sample of 92 mother–preschooler dyads was drawn from predominantly low-income, rural communities. Dyads participated in a laboratory session in which children's Electrocardiograph (ECG) monitoring occurred during a resting baseline, joint-challenge, and individual emotional and cognitive tasks. Mothers consented to review of Children & Youth Services (CYS) records for CM and completed an IPV measure. Mothers rated children's emotional adjustment, and observers rated children on their frustration and positive affect. Children's vagal suppression was shown to moderate relations between family violence exposure and emotional adjustment. Findings indicated that children greater in vagal suppression showed better emotional adjustment when from families low in violence. However, regardless of children's level of vagal suppression, all children showed poorer emotional adjustment when from families high in violence.
PMCID: PMC3582334  PMID: 21593016
child maltreatment; exposure to violence; physiological processes; preschoolers
7.  Mapping Cardiac Physiology and Parenting Processes in Maltreating Mother–Child Dyads 
Child maltreatment (CM) lies on an extreme end of the continuum of parenting-at-risk, and while CM has been linked with a variety of behavioral indicators of dysregulation in children, less is known about how physiological markers of regulatory capacity contribute to this association. The present study examined patterns of mother and child physiological regulation and their relations with observed differences in parenting processes during a structured interaction. Abusing, neglecting, and non-CM mothers and their 3- to 5-year-old children completed a resting baseline and moderately challenging joint task. The structural analysis of social behavior was used to code mother–child interactions while simultaneous measures of respiratory sinus arrhythmia were obtained. Results indicated that physically abusive mothers were more likely to react to children’s positive bids for autonomy with strict and hostile control, than either neglecting or non-CM mothers. CM exposure and quality of maternal responding to children’s autonomous bids were uniquely associated with lower parasympathetic tone in children. Results provide evidence of neurodevelopmental associations between early CM exposure, the immediate interactive context of parenting, and children’s autonomic physiology.
PMCID: PMC3582338  PMID: 21842991
parenting; SASB; psychophysiology; physical abuse; neglect
8.  Direct and Passive Prenatal Nicotine Exposure and the Development of Externalizing Psychopathology 
The association between maternal smoking during pregnancy and childhood antisocial outcomes has been demonstrated repeatedly across a variety of outcomes. Yet debate continues as to whether this association reflects a direct programming effect of nicotine on fetal brain development, or a phenotypic indicator of heritable liability passed from mother to child. In the current study, we examine relations between maternal smoking and child behavior among 133 women and their 7–15-year-olds, who were recruited for clinical levels of psychopathology. In order to disentangle correlates of maternal smoking, women who smoked during pregnancy were compared with (a) those who did not smoke, and (b) those who did not smoke but experienced significant second-hand exposure. Second-hand exposure was associated with increased externalizing psychopathology in participant mothers’ offspring. Moreover, regression analyses indicated that smoke exposure during pregnancy predicted conduct disorder symptoms, over and above the effects of income, parental antisocial tendencies, prematurity, birth weight, and poor parenting practices. This is the first study to extend the findings of externalizing vulnerability to second hand smoke exposure.
PMCID: PMC2711763  PMID: 17520361
Maternal smoking; Conduct disorder; Aggression; Second hand smoke; ADHD

Results 1-8 (8)