Standardized tests have been used to forecast scholastic success of school-age children, and have been related to intelligence, working memory, and inhibition using neuropsychological tests. However, ERP correlates of standardized achievement have not been reported. Thus, the relationship between academic achievement and the P3 component was assessed in a sample of 105 children during performance on a Go/NoGo task. The Wide Range Achievement Test – 3rd edition was administered to assess aptitude in reading, spelling, and arithmetic. Regression analyses indicated an independent contribution of P3 amplitude to reading and arithmetic achievement beyond the variance accounted for by IQ and school grade. No such relationship was observed for spelling. These data suggest that the P3, which reflects attentional processes involved in stimulus evaluation and inhibitory control may be a biomarker for academic achievement during childhood.
Academic Achievement; Scholastic Performance; P3; Inhibition; Working Memory; Executive Control
Skilled reading depends upon successfully integrating orthographic, phonological, and semantic information; however, the process of becoming a skilled reader with efficient neural circuitry is not fully understood. Short-term learning paradigms can provide insight into learning mechanisms by revealing differential responses to training approaches. To date, neuroimaging studies have primarily focused on effects of teaching novel words either in isolation or in context, without directly comparing the two. The current study compared the behavioral and neurobiological effects of learning novel pseudowords (i.e., pronouncing and attaching meaning) trained either in isolation or in sentential context. Behavioral results showed generally comparable pseudoword learning for both conditions, but sentential context-trained pseudowords were spoken and comprehended slightly more quickly. Neurobiologically, fMRI activity for reading trained pseudowords was similar to real words; however, an interaction between training approach and reading proficiency was observed. Specifically, highly skilled readers showed similar levels of activity regardless of training approach. However, less skilled readers differentiated between training conditions, showing comparable activity to highly skilled readers only for isolation-trained pseudowords. Overall, behavioral and neurobiological findings suggest that training approach may affect rate of learning and neural circuitry, and that less skilled readers may need explicit training to develop optimal neural pathways.
reading; learning; fMRI; adults; training; repetition
To the extent that selective attention skills are relevant for academic foundations and amenable to training, they represent an important focus for the field of education. Here, drawing on research on the neurobiology of attention, we review hypothesized links between selective attention and processing across three domains important to early academic skills. First, we provide a brief review of the neural bases of selective attention, emphasizing the effects of selective attention on neural processing, as well as the neural systems important to deploying selective attention and managing response conflict. Second, we examine the developmental time course of selective attention. It is argued that developmental differences in selective attention are related to the neural systems important for deploying selective attention and managing response conflict. In contrast, once effectively deployed, selective attention acts through very similar neural mechanisms across ages. In the third section, we relate the processes of selective attention to three domains important to academic foundations: language, literacy, and mathematics. Fourth, drawing on recent literatures on the effects of video-game play and mind-brain training on selective attention, we discuss the possibility of training selective attention. The final section examines the application of these principles to educationally-focused attention-training programs for children.
Selective Attention; Distractor Suppression; Development; Training
In this study we test the hypothesis that the functional connectivity of the frontal and parietal regions that children recruit during a basic numerical task (matching Arabic numerals to arrays of dots) is predictive of their math test scores (TEMA-3; Ginsburg 2003). Specifically, we tested 4- to 11-year-old children on a matching task during fMRI to localize a fronto-parietal network that responds more strongly during numerical matching than matching faces, words, or shapes. We then tested the functional connectivity between those regions during an independent task: natural viewing of an educational video that included math topics. Using this novel natural viewing method, we found that the connectivity between frontal and parietal regions during task-independent free-viewing of educational material is correlated with children's basic number matching ability, as well as their scores on the standardized test of mathematical ability (the TEMA). The correlation between children's mathematics scores and fronto-parietal connectivity is math-specific in the sense that it is independent of children's verbal IQ scores. Moreover, a control network, selective for faces, showed no correlation with mathematics performance. Finally, brain regions that correlate with subjects’ overall response times in the matching task do not account for our number- and math-related effects. We suggest that the functional intersection of number-related frontal and parietal regions is math-specific.
numerical cognition; mathematics; IQ; IPS; fronto-parietal network; fMRI; functional connectivity
Early adversity can negatively impact the development of cognitive functions, although little is known about whether such effects can be remediated later in life. The current study examined one facet of executive functioning — inhibitory control — among children who experienced institutional care and explored the impact of a foster care intervention within the context of the Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP). Specifically, a go/nogo task was administered when children were eight years old and behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) measures were collected. Results revealed that children assigned to care as usual (i.e., institutional care) were less accurate and exhibited slower neural responses compared to children assigned to the foster care intervention and children who had never been institutionalized. However, children in both the care as usual and foster care groups exhibited diminished attention processing of nogo cues as assessed via P300 amplitude. Foster care children also showed differential reactivity between correct and error responses via the error-related negativity (ERN) as compared to children in the care as usual group. Combined, the results highlight perturbations in neural sources of behavioral and attention problems among children experiencing early adversity. Potential implications for academic adjustment in at risk children are discussed.
inhibitory control; attention; early adversity; institutionalization; plasticity; ERP
Adolescent survivors of preterm birth experience persistent functional problems that negatively impact academic outcomes, even when standardized measures of cognition and language suggest normal ability. In this fMRI study, we compared the neural activation supporting auditory sentence comprehension in two groups of adolescents (ages 9–16 years); sentences varied in length and syntactic difficulty. Preterms (n = 18, mean gestational age 28.8 weeks) and full terms (n = 14) had scores on verbal IQ, receptive vocabulary, and receptive language tests that were within or above normal limits and similar between groups. In early and late phases of the trial, we found interactions by group and length; in the late phase, we also found a group by syntactic difficulty interaction. Post hoc tests revealed that preterms demonstrated significant activation in the left and right middle frontal gyri as syntactic difficulty increased. ANCOVA showed that the interactions could not be attributed to differences in age, receptive language skill, or reaction time. Results are consistent with the hypothesis that preterm birth modulates brain-behavior relations in sentence comprehension as task demands increase. We suggest preterms’ differences in neural processing may indicate a need for educational accommodations, even when formal test scores indicate normal academic achievement.
language; comprehension; prematurity; preterm; fMRI; education
Cognitive emotion regulation strategies, such as reappraising the emotional meaning of events, are linked to positive adjustment and are disrupted in individuals showing emotional distress, like anxiety. The late positive potential (LPP) is sensitive to reappraisal: LPP amplitudes are reduced when unpleasant pictures are reappraised in a positive light, suggesting regulation of negative emotion. However, only one study has examined reappraisal in children using the LPP. The present study examined whether directed reappraisals reduce the LPP in a group of 5- to 7-year-olds, and correlate with individual differences in fear and anxiety. EEG was recorded from 32 typically-developing children via 64 scalp electrodes during a directed reappraisal task. Mothers reported on child anxiety. Fearful behavior was observed. As predicted, LPP amplitudes were larger to unpleasant versus neutral pictures; counter to predictions, the LPP was not sensitive to reappraisal. The degree to which unpleasant versus neutral pictures elicited larger LPPs was correlated with greater anxiety and fear. Results suggest that reappraisal in young children is still developing, but that the LPP is sensitive to individual differences related to fear and anxiety. The utility of the LPP as a measure of cognitive emotion regulation and emotional processing biases in children is discussed.
Emotion Regulation; Reappraisal; ERPs; Late Positive Potential; Children; Anxiety
The late positive potential (LPP) reflects increased attention to emotional versus neutral stimuli in adults. To date, very few studies have examined the LPP in children, and whether it can be used to measure patterns of emotional processing that are related to dispositional mood characteristics, such as temperamental fear and anxiety. To examine this question, 39 typically-developing 5–7 year olds (M age in months = 75.27, SD = 5.83) passively viewed complex emotional and neutral pictures taken from the International Affective Picture System. Maternal report of temperamental fear and anxiety was obtained and fearful behavior during an emotional challenge was observed. As documented in adults, LPP amplitudes to pleasant and unpleasant stimuli were larger than to neutral stimuli, although some gender differences emerged. Larger LPP amplitude differences between unpleasant and neutral stimuli were associated with greater observed fear. The LPP as a measure of individual differences in emotional processing is discussed.
Late Positive Potential; Children; Emotional processing
Iron deficiency early in life results in neurocognitive deficits that persist into adulthood despite iron treatment. The hippocampus is particularly vulnerable to iron deficiency during the fetal and neonatal periods as evidenced by poorer hippocampus-mediated spatial recognition learning. However, the extent to which early iron deficiency alters interactions between hippocampus-based and extra-hippocampus based learning systems remains undetermined. The present study used an ambiguous maze-learning task to examine the learning process in iron sufficient young adult rats that had recovered from iron deficiency in the fetal and neonatal period. Animals were presented with a stimulus response-learning task in the context of spatial information; a procedure designed to elicit competition between dorsal striatum- and hippocampus-based systems respectively. Formerly iron deficient adult rats showed enhanced stimulus-response learning in the context of competing spatial/distal cue information, a finding suggestive of reduced hippocampal functional influence. The study provides evidence that early iron deficiency alters how different learning systems develop and ultimately interact in adulthood. The potential unbalancing of activity among major memory systems during early life has been postulated by others as a relevant factor underlying the developmental origins of certain psychiatric disorders.
behavior; stimulus response learning; hippocampus; iron deficiency; rat; striatum
There have been rapid advances in understanding a broad range of changes in brain structure and function during adolescence, and a growing interest in identifying which of these neurodevelopmental changes are directly linked with pubertal maturation—at least in part because of their potential to provide insights into the numerous emotional and behavioral health problems that emerge during this developmental period. This review focuses on what is known about the influence of puberty on white matter development in adolescence. We focus on white matter because of its role in providing the structural architectural organization of the brain and as a structural correlate of communication within complex neural systems. We begin with a review of studies that report sex differences or sex by age interactions in white matter development as these findings can provide, although indirectly, information relevant to puberty-related changes. Studies are also critically reviewed based on methodological procedures used to assess pubertal maturation and relations with white matter changes. Findings are discussed in light of their implications for the development of neural systems underlying the regulation of emotion and behavior and how alterations in the development of these systems may mediate risk for affective disorders in vulnerable adolescents.
puberty; white matter development; white matter volume; diffusion tensor imaging; affective disorders
The neural mechanisms underlying moral judgment have been extensively studied in healthy adults. How these mechanisms evolve from adolescence to adulthood has received less attention. Brain regions that have been consistently implicated in moral judgment in adults, including the superior temporal cortex and prefrontal cortex, undergo extensive developmental changes from adolescence to adulthood. Thus, their role in moral judgment may also change over time. In the present study, 51 healthy male participants age 13–53 were scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they viewed pictures that did or did not depict situations considered by most individuals to represent moral violations, and rated their degree of moral violation severity. Consistent with predictions, a regression analysis revealed a positive correlation between age and hemodynamic activity in the temporo-parietal junction when participants made decisions regarding moral severity. This region is known to contribute to mentalizing processes during moral judgment in adults and suggests that adolescents use these types of inferences less during moral judgment than do adults. A positive correlation with age was also present in the posterior cingulate. Overall, the results suggest that the brain regions utilized in moral judgment change over development.
Because anxiety disorders appear to follow developmental trajectories that begin early in development, it may be useful to examine the neurodevelopmental correlates of specific cognitive processes that have been linked to anxiety. For instance, the error-related negativity (ERN) is a negative deflection in the event-related potential that is maximal approximately 50 ms following the commission of errors at fronto-central electrode sites, and has consistently been found to be more negative among anxious adults. Much less, however, is known about anxiety and the ERN in children—especially when this relationship develops. We recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) while 55 children aged 8 to 13 performed an arrow version of the flankers task. Parents and children both reported on children’s anxiety. Results suggest that the relationship between the ERN and anxiety changes as a function of age. Among older children, a larger (i.e., more negative) ERN was significantly related to increased anxiety based on parent report. Although the relationship was less robust, the relationship between ERN and anxiety was opposite among younger children. These results are discussed in terms of existing work on anxiety and the ERN, and the need for longitudinal and developmental studies on the relationship between ERN and anxiety.
ERN; error-related negativity; anxiety; children; adolescents; development
Early life stress (ELS) is a risk factor for anxiety, mood disorders and alterations in stress responses. Less is known about the long-term neurobiological impact of ELS. We used [18F]-fluorodeoxyglucose Positron Emission Tomography (FDG-PET) to assess neural responses to a moderate stress test in adult monkeys that experienced ELS as infants. Both groups of monkeys showed hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis stress-induced activations and cardiac arousal in response to the stressor. A whole brain analysis detected significantly greater regional cerebral glucose metabolism (rCGM) in superior temporal sulcus, putamen, thalamus, and inferotemporal cortex of ELS animals compared to controls. Region of interest (ROI) analyses performed in areas identified as vulnerable to ELS showed greater activity in the orbitofrontal cortex of ELS compared to control monkeys, but greater hippocampal activity in the control compared to ELS monkeys. Together, these results suggest hyperactivity in emotional and sensory processing regions of adult monkeys with ELS, and greater activity in stress-regulatory areas in the controls. Despite these neural responses, no group differences were detected in neuroendocrine, autonomic or behavioral responses, except for a trend towards increased stillness in the ELS monkeys. Together, these data suggest hypervigilance in the ELS monkeys in the absence of immediate danger.
Early life stress; rearing; HPA axis; monkey; PET; social brain
The adolescent transition is associated with increases in reward- and sensation-seeking, peer-directed social interactions, and risk-taking, with exploratory use of alcohol and other drugs often beginning at this time. These age-related behaviors may have biological roots embedded in the evolutionary past, with similar adolescent-typical characteristics evident across a variety of mammalian species. Drawing across human behavioral and fMRI data and studies conducting in laboratory animals, this review examines processing of rewards, aversions, and affect in adolescence. Evidence for both hyper- and hypo-reactivity during adolescence in the processing of rewards is reviewed, along with possible contributors to these differences. Indications of sometimes heightened reward reactivity during adolescence are contrasted with frequent attenuations in adolescent sensitivity to aversive stimuli. At the same time, adolescents appear particularly prone to becoming emotionally aroused, especially in social contexts. Emerging evidence hints that exaggerated adolescent reactivity in reward and affective systems may be promoted in part by unusual strong cross-reactivity between these systems during adolescence. Such age-related propensities may promote adolescent risk taking, especially in social and exciting contexts, and contribute to adolescent-typical propensities to attach greater benefit and less cost to risky behaviors such as alcohol and drug use than individuals at other ages.
Adolescence; reward; aversive stimuli; affect; emotions; social interactions
The human striatum has been previously implicated in the processing of positive reinforcement, but less is known about its role in processing negative reinforcement. In this experiment, participants learn specific approach or avoid responses, mediated by positive and negative reinforcers respectively, to investigate how affective learning and associated neural activity are influenced by the motivational context in which learning occurs. The paradigm was divided into two discrete sessions, where participants could either earn monetary rewards (Approach sessions) or avoid monetary losses (Avoid sessions) based on successful learning. Specifically, a conditioned cue predicted the chance to win or avoid losing money contingent on a correct button press (Pre-learning trials), which upon learning led to the delivery of rewards or termination of losses (post-learning trials). Skin conductance responses (SCRs) and subjective ratings confirmed a learning effect (greater SCRs pre vs. post-learning) irrespective of reinforcer valence. Concurrently, activity in the ventral striatum was characterized by a similar learning effect, with greater responses during pre-learning. Interestingly, such learning effect was enhanced in the presence of a negative reinforcer, as suggested by an interaction between learning phase and session, highlighting the influence negative reinforcers can have on striatal circuits involved in learning and motivated behavior.
Approach; Avoidance; reinforcement learning; ventral striatum; nucleus accumbens; caudate; dopamine; cingulate gyrus
Maturational differences in brain responsiveness to rewards have been implicated in the increased rates of injury and death in adolescents from behavior-related causes. However, much of this morbidity is related to drug intoxication or other externalizing behaviors, and may be concentrated in a subset of adolescents who are at psychosocial or neurobiological risk. To examine whether individual differences in psychosocial and behavioral symptomatology relate to activation of motivational neurocircuitry, we scanned 26 psychiatrically-healthy adolescents using fMRI as they performed a monetary incentive delay task. Overall Problem Density on the Drug Use Screening Inventory (DUSI-OPD) correlated positively with activation of ventral mesofrontal cortex (mFC) during anticipation of responding for rewards (versus responding for no incentive). In addition, DUSI-OPD also correlated positively with right ventral striatum recruitment during anticipation of responding to win rewards (versus responding for no incentive or to avoid losses of identical magnitudes). Finally, a psychophysiological interaction (PPI) analysis indicated that increased connectivity between nucleus accumbens and portions of anterior cingulate and mFC as a function of reward prospects also correlated with DUSI-OPD. These findings extend previous reports demonstrating that in adolescents, individual differences in reactivity of motivational neurocircuitry relate to different facets of impulsivity or externalizing behaviors.
Reward; Impulsivity; Adolescence; Ventral Striatum; Instrumental behavior
Adolescent rats show immaturities in executive function and are less able than adult rats to learn reinforcement reversals and shift attentional set. These two forms of executive function rely on the functional integrity of the orbitofrontal and prelimbic cortices respectively. Drugs used to treat attention deficit disorder, such as atomoxetine, that increase cortical catecholamine levels improve executive functions in humans, non-human primates and adult rats with prefrontal lesions. Cortical noradrenergic systems are some of the last to mature in primates and rats. Moreover, norepinephrine transporters (NET) are higher in juvenile rats than adults. The underdeveloped cortical noradrenergic system and higher number of NET are hypothesized to underlie the immaturities in executive function found in adolescents. We assessed executive function in male Long-Evans rats using an intra-dimensional/extra-dimensional set shifting task. We administered the NET blocker, atomoxetine (0.0, 0.1, 0.9 mg/kg/ml; i.p.), prior to the test of attentional set shift and a reinforcement reversal. The lowest dose of drug facilitated attentional set shifting but had no effect on reversal learning. These data demonstrate that NET blockade allows adolescent rats to more easily perform attentional set shifting.
Drugs of abuse induce complex motivational states in their users which have been shown to vary developmentally. In addition to developmental variation, interindividual variation in the rewarding and aversive effects of drugs of abuse is an important consideration. A rat model was used to assess whether the conditioned rewarding/aversive effects of cocaine were maintained as individuals matured from adolescence into adulthood. We tested rats in the cocaine conditioned taste aversion task as adolescents and again in adulthood. We observed a wide range of approach/avoidance behaviors in this task, and also observed that the relative interindividual differences in approach/avoidance are remarkably stable across the two developmental stages. Furthermore, we observed that these interindividual differences are not attributable to individual differences in cocaine-induced locomotor effects or individual differences in blood or brain cocaine levels. Taken together, these findings indicate that sensitivity to cocaine’s motivational effects is stable across development and part of a unique neurological process.
Adolescents often fail to adaptively regulate their emotions and behaviors. This is most clearly demonstrated by the marked increase during this period in fatalities that are attributable to preventable causes. Using functional magnetic resonance methodology, this study explored whether adolescents and adults differed in their engagement of prefrontal circuitry in response to a cognitive and emotional challenge. Twenty-four adolescents and twenty-three adults were scanned while they solved difficult math problems with induced failure and negative social evaluation. Data is reported from 23 adolescents and 23 adults. Adult and adolescent participants showed similar increases in heart rate when responding to the experimental challenge. Despite the similarity of the autonomic response, adolescents recruited a more restricted network of prefrontal regions as compared to adults. Both adolescents and adults recruited the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, however adults additionally recruited the anterior insula. Functional connectivity between the anterior insula and other prefrontal regions was stronger in adults as compared to adolescents. Further, for adults, the magnitude of activity in the insula predicted lower autonomic activity in response to the challenge. Differences between adolescents and adults engagement of prefrontal networks may relate to adolescents' poor behavioral and emotional regulation.
Adolescence is a period marked by changes in motivational and cognitive brain systems. However, the development of the interactions between reward and cognitive control processing are just beginning to be understood. Using event-related functional neuroimaging and an incentive modulated antisaccade task, we compared blood-oxygen level dependent activity underlying motivated response inhibition in children, adolescents, and adults. Behaviorally, children and adolescents performed significantly worse than adults during neutral trials. However, children and adolescents showed significant performance increases during reward trials. Adults showed no performance changes across conditions. fMRI results demonstrated that all groups recruited a similar circuitry to support task performance, including regions typically associated with rewards (striatum and orbital frontal cortex), and regions known to be involved in inhibitory control (putative frontal and supplementary eye fields, and posterior parietal cortex, and prefrontal loci). During rewarded trials adolescents showed increased activity in striatal regions, while adults demonstrated heightened activation in the OFC relative to children and adolescents. Children showed greater reliance on prefrontal executive regions that may be related to increased effort inhibiting responses. Overall, these results indicate that response inhibition is enhanced with reward contingencies over development. Adolescents’ heightened response in striatal regions may be one factor contributing to reward-biased decision making and perhaps risk taking behavior.
adolescence; reward; inhibitory control; antisaccade; fMRI
Adolescence is a critical transition period, during which fundamental changes prepare the adolescent for becoming an adult. Heuristic models of the neurobiology of adolescent behavior have emerged, promoting the central role of reward and motivation, coupled with cognitive immaturities. Here, we bring focus to two basic sets of processes, attention and conditioning, which are essential for adaptive behavior. Using the dual-attention model developed by Corbetta and Shulman (2002), which identifies a stimulus-driven and a goal-driven attention network, we propose a balance that favors stimulus-driven attention over goal-driven attention in youth. Regarding conditioning, we hypothesize that stronger associations tend to be made between environmental cues and appetitive stimuli, and weaker associations with aversive stimuli, in youth relative to adults. An attention system geared to prioritize stimulus-driven attention, together with more powerful associative learning with appetitive incentives, contribute to shape patterns of adolescent motivated behavior. This proposed bias in attention and conditioning function could facilitate the impulsive, novelty-seeking and risk-taking behavior that is typical of many adolescents.
Humans are fundamentally social creatures who are ‘motivated’ to be with others. In this review we examine the role of oxytocin (OT) as it relates to social motivation. OT is synthesized in the brain and throughout the body, including in the heart, thymus, gastrointestinal tract, as well as reproductive organs. The distribution of the OT receptor (OTR) system in both the brain and periphery is even more far-reaching and its expression is subject to changes over the course of development. OTR expression is also sensitive to changes in the external environment and the internal somatic world. The OT system functions as an important element within a complex, developmentally sensitive biobehavioral system. Other elements include sensory inputs, the salience, reward, and threat detection pathways, the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal stress response axis. Despite an ever expanding scientific literature, key unresolved questions remain concerning the interplay of the central and peripheral components of this complex biobehavioral system that dynamically engages the brain and the body as humans interact with social partners over the course of development.
motivation; dyadic social interactions; parenting; sexual behavior; oxytocin; vasopressin; salience; reward; dopamine; estrogen; testosterone; stress; cortisol; epigenetics
The ability to regulate one’s emotions is critical to mental health and well-being, and is impaired in a wide range of psychopathologies, some of which initially manifest in childhood or adolescence. Cognitive reappraisal is a particular approach to emotion regulation frequently utilized in behavioral psychotherapies. Despite a wealth of research on cognitive reappraisal in adults, little is known about the developmental trajectory of brain mechanisms subserving this form of emotion regulation in children. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we asked children and adolescents to up-and down-regulate their response to disgusting images, as the experience of disgust has been linked to anxiety disorders. We demonstrate distinct patterns of brain activation during successful up- and down-regulation of emotion, as well as an inverse correlation between activity in ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and limbic structures during down-regulation, suggestive of a potential regulatory role for vmPFC. Further, we show age-related effects on activity in PFC and amygdala. These findings have important clinical implications for the understanding of cognitive-based therapies in anxiety disorders in childhood and adolescence.
emotion regulation; cognitive reappraisal; development; functional magnetic resonance imaging
Williams syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder with an intriguing behavioral phenotype—hypersociability combined with significant non-social fears. Previous studies have demonstrated abnormalities in amygdala function in individuals with Williams syndrome compared to typically-developing controls. However, it remains unclear whether the findings are related to the atypical neurodevelopment of Williams syndrome, or are also associated with behavioral traits at the extreme end of a normal continuum. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare amygdala blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) responses to non-social and social images in individuals with Williams syndrome compared to either individuals with inhibited temperament (high non-social fear) or individuals with uninhibited temperament (high sociability). Individuals with Williams syndrome had larger amygdala BOLD responses when viewing the non-social fear images than the inhibited temperament control group. In contrast, when viewing both fear and neutral social images, individuals with Williams syndrome did not show smaller amygdala BOLD responses relative to the uninhibited temperament control group, but instead had amygdala responses proportionate to their sociability. These results suggest heightened amygdala response to non-social fear images is characteristic of WS, whereas, variability in amygdala response to social fear images is proportionate to, and might be explained by, levels of trait sociability.
Williams syndrome; inhibited temperament; amygdala; sociability; anxiety; fMRI
Despite significant social difficulties, children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are vulnerable to the effects of social exclusion. We recorded EEG while children with ASD and typical peers played a computerized game involving peer rejection. Children with ASD reported ostracism-related distress comparable to typically developing children. Event-related potentials (ERPs) indicated a distinct pattern of temporal processing of rejection events in children with ASD. While typically developing children showed enhanced response to rejection at a late slow wave indexing emotional arousal and regulation, those with autism showed attenuation at an early component, suggesting reduced engagement of attentional resources in the aversive social context. Results emphasize the importance of studying the time course of social information processing in ASD; they suggest distinct mechanisms subserving similar overt behavior and yield insights relevant to development and implementation of targeted treatment approaches and objective measures of response to treatment.
ERP; EEG; autism spectrum disorder; social exclusion; social neuroscience