Neurophysiological evidence of an association between cognitive control and defensive reactivity processes in young children.
ABSTRACT: Interactions between cognitive control and affective processes, such as defensive reactivity, are intimately involved in healthy and unhealthy human development. However, cognitive control and defensive reactivity processes are often studied in isolation and rarely examined in early childhood. To address these gaps, we examined the relationships between multiple neurophysiological measures of cognitive control and defensive reactivity in young children. Specifically, we assessed two event-related potentials thought to index cognitive control processes--the error-related negativity (ERN) and error positivity (Pe)--measured across two tasks, and two markers of defensive reactivity processes--startle reflex and resting parietal asymmetry--in a sample of 3- to 7-year old children. Results revealed that measures of cognitive control and defensive reactivity were related such that evidence of poor cognitive control (smaller ERN) was associated with high defensive reactivity (larger startle and greater right relative to left parietal activity). The strength of associations between the ERN and measures of defensive reactivity did not vary by age, providing evidence that poor cognitive control relates to greater defensive reactivity across early childhood years.
Project description:Anxiety can be broken down into multiple facets including behavioral components, such as defensive reactivity, and cognitive components, such as distracting anxious thoughts. In a previous study, we showed that anticipation of unpredictable shocks facilitated response inhibition to infrequent no-go trials during a go/no-go task. The present study extends this work to examine the distinct contribution of defensive reactivity, measures with fear-potentiated startle, and anxious thought, assessed with thought probes, on go and no-go performance. Consistent with our prior findings, shock anticipation facilitated response inhibition (i.e., reduced errors of commission) on the no-go trials. Regression analyses showed that (a) no-go accuracy was positively associated with fear-potentiated startle and negatively associated with threat-related/task-unrelated thoughts and (b) go accuracy correlated negatively with fear-potentiated startle. Thus, while the present findings confirm the influence of anxiety on response inhibition, they also show that such influence reflects the balance between the positive effect of defensive reactivity and the negative effect of distracting anxious thoughts. (PsycINFO Database Record
Project description:Poverty and threat exposure (TE) predict deficits in emotion regulation (ER). Effective cognitive ER (i.e., reappraisal) may be supported by: (1) cognitive processes implicated in generating and implementing cognitive reappraisal, supported by activation in brain regions involved in cognitive control (e.g., frontal, insular, and parietal cortices) and (2) emotion processing and reactivity, involving identification, encoding, and maintenance of emotional states and related variation in brain activity of regions involved in emotional reactivity (i.e., amygdala). Poverty is associated with deficits in cognitive control, and TE with alterations in emotion processing and reactivity. Our goal was to identify dissociable emotional and cognitive pathways to ER deficits from poverty and TE. Measures of cognitive ability, emotional processing and reactivity, ER, and neural activity during a sadness ER task, were examined from a prospective longitudinal study of youth at risk for depression (n = 139). Both cognitive ability and left anterior insula extending into the frontal operculum activity during a sadness reappraisal task mediated the relationship between poverty and ER. Emotion processing/reactivity didn't mediate the relationship of TE to ER. Findings support a cognitive pathway from poverty to ER deficits. They also underscore the importance of dissociating mechanisms contributing to ER impairments from adverse early childhood experiences.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Understanding of exaggerated responsivity in specific phobia-its physiology and neural mediators-has advanced considerably. However, despite strong phenotypic evidence that prominence of specific phobia relative to co-occurring conditions (i.e., principal versus nonprincipal disorder) is associated with dramatic differences in subjective distress, there is yet no consideration of such comorbidity issues on objective defensive reactivity. METHODS:A community sample of specific phobia (n = 74 principal; n = 86 nonprincipal) and control (n = 76) participants imagined threatening and neutral events while acoustic startle probes were presented and eyeblinks (orbicularis occuli) recorded. Changes in heart rate, skin conductance level, and facial expressivity were also measured. RESULTS:Principal specific phobia patients far exceeded control participants in startle reflex and autonomic reactivity during idiographic fear imagery. Distinguishing between single and multiple phobias within principal phobia and comparing these with nonprincipal phobia revealed a continuum of decreasing defensive mobilization: single patients were strongly reactive, multiple patients were intermediate, and nonprincipal patients were attenuated-the inverse of measures of pervasive anxiety and dysphoria (i.e., negative affectivity). Further, as more disorders supplanted specific phobia from principal disorder, overall defensive mobilization was systematically more impaired. CONCLUSIONS:The exaggerated responsivity characteristic of specific phobia is limited to those patients for whom circumscribed fear is the most impairing condition and coincident with little additional affective psychopathology. As specific phobia is superseded in severity by broad and chronic negative affectivity, defensive reactivity progressively diminishes. Focal fears may still be clinically significant but not reflected in objective defensive mobilization.
Project description:Panic disorder (PD) is characterized by a dysfunctional defensive responding to panic-related body symptoms that is assumed to contribute to the persistence of panic symptomatology. The present study aimed at examining whether this dysfunctional defensive reactivity to panic-related body symptoms would no longer be present following successful cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) but would persist when patients show insufficient symptom improvement. Therefore, in the present study, effects of CBT on reported symptoms and defensive response mobilization during interoceptive challenge were investigated using hyperventilation as a respiratory symptom provocation procedure. Changes in defensive mobilization to body symptoms in the course of CBT were investigated in patients with a primary diagnosis of PD with or without agoraphobia by applying a highly standardized hyperventilation task prior to and after a manual-based CBT (n = 38) or a waiting period (wait-list controls: n = 20). Defensive activation was indexed by the potentiation of the amygdala-dependent startle eyeblink response. All patients showed a pronounced defensive response mobilization to body symptoms at baseline. After treatment, no startle reflex potentiation was found in those patients who showed a clinically significant improvement. However, wait-list controls and treatment non-responders continued to show increased defensive responses to actually innocuous body symptoms after the treatment/waiting period. The present results indicate that the elimination of defensive reactivity to actually innocuous body symptoms might be a neurobiological correlate and indicator of successful CBT in patients with PD, which may help to monitor and optimize CBT outcomes.
Project description:Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized as a disorder of exaggerated defensive physiological arousal. The novel aim of the present research was to investigate within PTSD a potential dose-response relationship between past trauma recurrence and current comorbidity and intensity of physiological reactions to imagery of trauma and other aversive scenarios.A community sample of principal PTSD (n = 49; 22 single-trauma exposed, 27 multiple-trauma exposed) and control (n = 76; 46 never-trauma exposed, 30 trauma exposed) participants imagined threatening and neutral events while acoustic startle probes were presented and the eye-blink response (orbicularis occuli) was recorded. Changes in heart rate, skin conductance level, and facial expressivity were also indexed.Overall, PTSD patients exceeded control participants in startle reflex, autonomic responding, and facial expressivity during idiographic trauma imagery and, though less pronounced, showed heightened reactivity to standard anger, panic, and physical danger imagery. Concerning subgroups, control participants with and without trauma exposure showed isomorphic patterns. Within PTSD, only the single-trauma patients evinced robust startle and autonomic responses, exceeding both control participants and multiple-trauma PTSD. Despite greater reported arousal, the multiple-trauma relative to single-trauma PTSD group showed blunted defensive reactivity associated with more chronic and severe PTSD, greater mood and anxiety disorder comorbidity, and more pervasive dimensional dysphoria (e.g., depression, trait anxiety).Whereas PTSD patients generally show marked physiological arousal during aversive imagery, concordant with self-reported distress, the most symptomatic patients with histories of severe, cumulative traumatization show discordant physiological hyporeactivity, perhaps attributable to sustained high stress and an egregious, persistent negative affectivity that ultimately compromises defensive responding.
Project description:Several studies have claimed that the positive association between childhood fitness and cognitive control is attributable to differences in the child's cognitive control strategy, which can involve either proactive or reactive control. The present study tested this hypothesis by manipulating the probability of trial types during a modified flanker task. Preadolescent children performed mostly congruent and mostly incongruent conditions of the flanker task, with post-error task performance and error negativity/error-related negativity (Ne/ERN) being assessed. Results indicated that greater aerobic fitness was related to greater post-error accuracy and larger Ne/ERN amplitudes in the mostly congruent condition. These findings suggest that higher-fit children might be able to transiently upregulate cognitive control by recruiting reactive control in the mostly congruent condition. Further, greater fitness was related to greater modulation of Ne/ERN amplitude between conditions, suggesting that higher-fit children engaged in more proactive control in the mostly incongruent condition. This study supports the hypothesis that greater childhood fitness is associated with a more flexible shift between reactive and proactive modes of cognitive control to adapt to varying task demands.
Project description:Preterm birth is associated with heightened risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)-like symptoms and neurocognitive impairments, including impairments in performance monitoring. Here, we investigate the cognitive and neurophysiological processes from a performance-monitoring task in preterm-born adolescents and examine whether these processes in preterm-born adolescents reflect identical neurophysiological impairments to those observed in term-born adolescents with ADHD. We compared 186 preterm-born individuals to 69 term-born individuals with ADHD and 135 term-born controls on cognitive-performance measures and event-related potentials (ERPs) of conflict monitoring (N2) and error processing (ERN, Pe) from a flanker task. Preterm-born adolescents demonstrated reduced N2, ERN and Pe amplitudes, compared to controls, and similar ERN and Pe impairments to term-born adolescents with ADHD. While ADHD symptoms correlated with ERN amplitude at FCz among the preterm-born, ERN amplitude at Fz, N2 and Pe amplitude were not associated with ADHD symptoms. Preterm-born individuals show impairments on neurophysiological indices of conflict monitoring (N2) and error processing (ERN and Pe). Early neurophysiological error processing may be a marker underlying the processes linked to the increased risk for ADHD among preterm-born individuals. Error detection processes are malleable and potential targets for non-pharmacological interventions. Preterm-born individuals are likely to benefit from early interventions.
Project description:The etiology of emotion-related disorders such as anxiety or affective disorders is considered to be complex with an interaction of biological and environmental factors. Particular evidence has accumulated for alterations in the dopaminergic and noradrenergic system--partly conferred by catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene variation--for the adenosinergic system as well as for early life trauma to constitute risk factors for those conditions. Applying a multi-level approach, in a sample of 95 healthy adults, we investigated effects of the functional COMT Val158Met polymorphism, caffeine as an adenosine A2A receptor antagonist (300 mg in a placebo-controlled intervention design) and childhood maltreatment (CTQ) as well as their interaction on the affect-modulated startle response as a neurobiologically founded defensive reflex potentially related to fear- and distress-related disorders. COMT val/val genotype significantly increased startle magnitude in response to unpleasant stimuli, while met/met homozygotes showed a blunted startle response to aversive pictures. Furthermore, significant gene-environment interaction of COMT Val158Met genotype with CTQ was discerned with more maltreatment being associated with higher startle potentiation in val/val subjects but not in met carriers. No main effect of or interaction effects with caffeine were observed. Results indicate a main as well as a GxE effect of the COMT Val158Met variant and childhood maltreatment on the affect-modulated startle reflex, supporting a complex pathogenetic model of the affect-modulated startle reflex as a basic neurobiological defensive reflex potentially related to anxiety and affective disorders.
Project description:Reactivity to others' emotions not only can result in empathic concern (EC), an important motivator of prosocial behavior, but can also result in personal distress (PD), which may hinder prosocial behavior. Examining neural substrates of emotional reactivity may elucidate how EC and PD differentially influence prosocial behavior. Participants (N = 57) provided measures of EC, PD, prosocial behavior, and neural responses to emotional expressions at ages 10 and 13. Initial EC predicted subsequent prosocial behavior. Initial EC and PD predicted subsequent reactivity to emotions in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and inferior parietal lobule, respectively. Activity in the IFG, a region linked to mirror neuron processes, as well as cognitive control and language, mediated the relation between initial EC and subsequent prosocial behavior.
Project description:The catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) val158met single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) alters metabolic activity of the COMT enzyme regulating catecholamines, with the Val (valine) allele resulting in 40% greater enzymatic activity than the Met (methionine) allele. Previous research has identified systematic inter-individual differences in cognitive and behavioral phenotypes related to this polymorphism, often attributed to the fact that extracellular dopamine in the prefrontal cortex is strongly affected by the COMT enzyme. The neurophysiological mechanisms mediating these inter-individual differences in specific brain systems and task contexts remain to be established however. In the current study, we examined the extent to which physio-mechanistic differences by COMT genotype affect somato-visceral and visual cortical responses to learned threat cues. Classical aversive differential conditioning was implemented using rapidly phase-reversing grating stimuli, previously shown to engage retinotopic visual cortex. Differential response patterns in sensory and autonomic systems were elicited by pairing one grating (CS+, conditioned stimulus), but not the other (CS-), with a noxious stimulus. Dense-array electroencephalography and somato-visceral measures of defensive reactivity were recorded in addition to self-report data. Individuals of the Val/Val genotype, compared to Met allele carriers, reliably showed greater initial enhancement in their visuocortical response to the CS+, accompanied by stronger defensive engagement, indexed by heart rate acceleration and startle potentiation. The finding that COMT polymorphism status affects threat cue reactivity at the visuocortical level is consistent with the notion that sensory processing of threat is facilitated by strong re-entrant bias signals from anterior areas, including the prefrontal cortex.