The late positive potential (LPP) is an event-related potential (ERP) component that indexes sustained attention towards motivationally salient information. The LPP has been observed in children and adults, however little is known about its development from childhood into adolescence. In addition, whereas LPP studies examine responses to images from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS; Lang et al., 2008) or emotional faces, no previous studies have compared responses in youth across stimuli. To examine how emotion interacts with attention across development, the current study used an emotional-interrupt task to measure LPP and behavioral responses in 8- to 13-year-olds using unpleasant, pleasant, and neutral IAPS images, as well as sad, happy, and neutral faces. Compared to older youth, younger children exhibited enhanced LPPs over occipital sites. In addition, sad but not happy faces elicited a larger LPP than neutral faces; behavioral measures did not vary across facial expressions. Both unpleasant and pleasant IAPS images were associated with increased LPPs and behavioral interference compared to neutral images. Results suggest that there may be developmental differences in the scalp distribution of the LPP, and compared to faces, IAPS elicit more robust behavioral and electrocortical measures of attention to emotional stimuli.
late positive potential; event-related potentials; emotion; childhood; adolescence
Studies comparing neural correlates of reward processing across development yield inconsistent findings. This challenges theories characterizing adolescents as globally hypo- or hypersensitive to rewards. Developmental differences in reward sensitivity may fluctuate based on reward magnitude, and on whether rewards require decision-making. We examined whether these factors modulate developmental differences in neural response during reward anticipation and/or receipt in 26 adolescents (14.05±2.37yrs) and 26 adults (31.25±8.23yrs). Brain activity was assessed with fMRI during reward anticipation, when subjects made responses with-vs.-without decision-making, to obtain large–vs.–small rewards, and during reward receipt. When reward-receipt required decision-making, neural activity did not differ by age. However, when reward receipt did not require decision-making, neural activity varied by development, reward magnitude, and stage of the reward task. During anticipation, adolescents, but not adults, exhibited greater activity in the insula, extending into putamen, and cingulate gyrus for large-vs.-small incentives. During feedback, adults, but not adolescents, exhibited greater activity in the precuneus for large-vs.-small incentives. These data indicate that age-related differences in reward sensitivity cannot be characterized by global hypo- or hyper-responsivity. Instead, neural responding in striatum, prefrontal cortex and precuneus is influenced by both situational demands and developmental factors. This suggests nuanced maturational effects in adolescent reward sensitivity.
reward; incentive; brain; fMRI; development; adolescents; decision-making
The superior temporal sulcus (STS) plays an important role in the perception of biological motion and in the representation of higher order information about other’s goals and intentions. Using a rapid event related functional magnetic resonance imaging paradigm (fMRI), children (n = 37, mean age 11.0) and adults (n = 17, mean age 25.3) viewed congruent or incongruent actions. Congruency (and incongruency) of a reach toward an object was a function of whether the object had just previously received positive or negative regard. Relative to congruent trials, both children and adults showed an increase in activation in the posterior STS bilaterally, in response to incongruent trials. In children, these STS regions exhibited developmental changes. Specifically, the differential response to Incongruent trials relative to Congruent trials was larger in older children in both hemispheres.
fMRI; action observation; development
Episodic memory is central to the human experience. In typically developing children, episodic memory improves rapidly during middle childhood. While the developmental cognitive neuroscience of episodic memory remains largely uncharted, recent research has begun to provide important insights. It has long been assumed that hippocampus-dependent binding mechanisms are in place by early childhood, and that improvements in episodic memory observed during middle childhood result from the protracted development of the prefrontal cortex. We revisit the notion that binding mechanisms are age-invariant, and propose that changes in the hippocampus and its projections to cortical regions also contribute to the development of episodic memory. We further review the role of developmental changes in lateral prefrontal and parietal cortices in this development. Finally, we discuss changes in white matter tracts connecting brain regions that are critical for episodic memory. Overall, we argue that changes in episodic memory emerge from the concerted effort of a network of relevant brain structures.
memory; development; hippocampus; prefrontal cortex; parietal cortex; white matter
Numerous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies of the brain-bases of autism have demonstrated altered cortical responses in subjects with autism, relative to typical subjects, during a variety of tasks. These differences may reflect altered neuronal responses or altered hemodynamic response. This study searches for evidence of hemodynamic response differences by using a simple visual stimulus and elementary motor actions, which should elicit similar neuronal responses in patients and controls.
We acquired fMRI data from two groups of 16 children, a typical group and a group with Simplex Autism, during a simple visuomotor paradigm previously used to assess this question in other cross-group comparisons. A general linear model estimated the blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signal time course, and repeated-measures analysis of variance tested for potential cross-group differences in the BOLD signal.
The hemodynamic response in Simplex Autism is similar to that found in typical children. Although the sample size was small for a secondary analysis, medication appeared to have no effect on the hemodynamic response within the Simplex Autism group.
When fMRI studies show BOLD response differences between autistic and typical subjects, these results likely reflect between-group differences in neural activity and not an altered hemodynamic response.
functional magnetic resonance imaging; visuomotor; autism spectrum disorders; event-related; neurovascular coupling; medication effects
Neither lesions of orbital frontal (OFC) areas 11/13 nor selective amygdala lesions alter the ability to learn stimulus-reinforcer association and reversal discriminations in adult monkeys. Here, we investigated whether the same conclusion will hold true when the same lesions occur in infancy. Infant rhesus monkeys received sham-operations, neurotoxic amygdala lesions, or aspiration OFC 11/13 lesions at 8–10 days of age and were trained on object discrimination reversal (ODR) tasks. Performance on a single pair (1-pair) ODR was assessed at the age of 3 months and 3 years, and then animals were tested in a 5-pairs ODR task in which they had to concurrently learn and reverse five discrimination problems. The results indicated that the ability to solve a single-pair discrimination problem followed by six reversals appears to be late maturing in monkeys but is spared following selective lesions of either OFC areas 11/13 or amygdala, even with the use of the more challenging 5-object ODR task. Finally, performance in the 1-pair ODR at 3 years was comparable to that following adult-onset lesions, indicating that neither OFC areas 11/13 nor amygdala are critical for the development of reversal learning.
Reward; Decision; Prefrontal; Amygdala; Response Inhibition; Development
Depression is associated with impairments in cognitive control including action monitoring processes, which involve the detection and processing of erroneous responses in order to adjust behavior. Although numerous studies have reported altered error-related brain activity in depressed adults, relatively little is known about age-related changes in error-related brain activity in depressed youth. This study focuses on the error-related negativity (ERN), a negative deflection in the event-related potential (ERP) that is maximal approximately 50 ms following errors. High-density ERPs were examined following responses on a flanker task in 24 youth diagnosed with MDD and 14 low-risk healthy controls (HC). Results indicate that compared to HC, MDD youth had significantly smaller ERN amplitudes and did not exhibit the normative increases in ERN amplitudes as a function of age. Also, ERN amplitudes were similar in depressed youth with and without comorbid anxiety. These results suggest that depressed youth exhibit different age-related changes in brain activity associated with action monitoring processes. Findings are discussed in terms of existing work on the neural correlates of action monitoring and depression and the need for longitudinal research studies investigating the development of neural systems underlying action monitoring in youth diagnosed with and at risk for depression.
ERN; error-related negativity; depression; children; adolescents; development
•We quantify how well IQ changes in teenagers can be predicted from brain scans.•We compare different ways to cross-validate predictions from neuroimaging.•We demonstrate the advantage of using Leave-One-Out cross-validation.•We illustrate the limitations of using IQ as a measure of cognitive potential.
Procedures that can predict cognitive abilities from brain imaging data are potentially relevant to educational assessments and studies of functional anatomy in the developing brain. Our aim in this work was to quantify the degree to which IQ change in the teenage years could be predicted from structural brain changes. Two well-known k-fold cross-validation analyses were applied to data acquired from 33 healthy teenagers – each tested at Time 1 and Time 2 with a 3.5 year interval. One approach, a Leave-One-Out procedure, predicted IQ change for each subject on the basis of structural change in a brain region that was identified from all other subjects (i.e., independent data). This approach predicted 53% of verbal IQ change and 14% of performance IQ change. The other approach used half the sample, to identify regions for predicting IQ change in the other half (i.e., a Split half approach); however – unlike the Leave-One-Out procedure – regions identified using half the sample were not significant. We discuss how these out-of-sample estimates compare to in-sample estimates; and draw some recommendations for k-fold cross-validation procedures when dealing with small datasets that are typical in the neuroimaging literature.
IQ change, Neuroimaging, Circular inference; Biased sampling; Non-independent errors; Cross-validation
During the first year, infants begin to exhibit initial evidence of working memory and inhibitory control in conjunction with substantial maturation of the frontal cortex and corresponding neural circuitry. Currently, relatively little is known about the neural and autonomic resources that are recruited in response to increased executive demands during the first year of development. To this end, we recorded electroencephalogram (EEG; 6-9 Hz) and heart rate from 10-month-olds during a working memory and inhibitory control task (looking A-not-B). Analyses compared measures of frontal functioning (EEG power, EEG coherence, heart rate) during nonreversal (working memory) and reversal (working memory + inhibitory control) trials. The increased cognitive demand of inhibitory control processing was associated with increases in heart rate and frontal coherence (medial frontal-lateral frontal, medial frontal-temporal, medial frontal-medial parietal, and medial frontal-occipital electrode pairs). Thus, synchronized activity across distributed cortical regions appeared to be essential to inhibitory control processes during infancy. The addition of inhibitory control processes, however, was not associated with any changes in neuronal activity (EEG power). These findings are discussed in relation to other neuroscience findings and provide insight into the development of integrated frontal functioning in infancy.
working memory; inhibitory control; EEG power; EEG coherence; heart rate; infants
While major depressive disorder has been shown to be a significant mental health issue for school-age children, recent research indicates that depression can be observed in children as early as the preschool period. Yet, little work has been done to explore the neurobiological factors associated with this early form of depression. Given research suggesting a relation between adult depression and anomalies in emotion-related neural circuitry, the goal of the current study was to elucidate changes in functional activation during negative mood induction and emotion regulation in school-age children with a history of preschool-onset depression. The results suggest that a history of depression during the preschool period is associated with decreased activity in prefrontal cortex during mood induction and regulation. Moreover, the severity of current depressed mood was associated with increased activity in limbic regions, such as the amygdala, particularly in children with a history of depression. Similar to results observed in adult depression, the current findings indicate disruptions in emotion-related neural circuitry associated with preschool-onset depression.
preschool depression; imaging; emotion regulation; prefrontal; amygdala
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