Exposure therapy for pediatric irritability: Theory and potential mechanisms.
ABSTRACT: Pediatric irritability is prevalent and impairing, yet little is known about its pathophysiology and treatment. In this article, we build on our and others' previous work to posit core mechanisms of irritability operating across the brain, behavior, and environment. Specifically, we propose proximal processes that surround the symptomatology of irritability and are potential targets for an exposure-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for irritability that our group has developed. The heart of this model focuses on neurocognitive processes: youth's encoding of nonreward and threat stimuli, which involves prediction error signaling in the brain, and cognitive control in the context of frustration. Alterations in these processes are theorized to be central to chronic, severe irritability. Environmental responses to youth's symptom expression are also examined. Exposure-based CBT for irritability utilizes controlled, in vivo exposure to nonreward and threat stimuli with the aim to engage cognitive control and target top-down regulation of frustration. This intervention integrates selected parent management training techniques to target symptom reinforcement processes. Continued pathophysiological and treatment studies of irritability will not only refine our emerging understanding of the phenotype, but also inform broader questions on the brain and behavioral mechanisms of CBT efficacy.
Project description:Irritability refers to a proneness for anger, and is a symptom of internalizing and externalizing psychopathology. Since irritability is associated with significant cross-sectional and longitudinal impairments, research on the behavioral and neural correlates of pediatric irritability in populations at risk for significant irritability is of paramount importance. Irritability can be assessed in the laboratory using behavioral paradigms that elicit frustration. Few behavioral frustration paradigms have been designed to measure the effects of frustration on cognitive control. Therefore, the goal of the present study was to validate a behavioral frustration paradigm for use in school-age children which addressed some of the limitations of prior research. Participants included children, ages 8-12 years, who were either typically developing (TD; n = 38) or diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; n = 67), which provided a sample of children with a range of baseline irritability. All participants completed the Frustration Go/No-Go (GNG) task, and self-reported irritability was assessed using the Affective Reactivity Index. Results showed that across participants, self-reported frustration, commission error rate, and tau all increased with the addition of frustration, with similar effect sizes in ADHD and TD groups. Further, self-reported irritability, moreso than ADHD symptoms, predicted changes in self-reported frustration during the task. Together, these results support the construct validity of the Frustration GNG task as a means of assessing the effect of frustration on cognitive control. Clinical applications and future directions are discussed.
Project description:<h4>Purpose of review</h4>Chronic, severe irritability is a common presenting problem in children and adolescents. Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) was added to the DSM-5 in recognition of this public health need. Currently there are no well-established, evidence-based pharmacological or psychosocial treatments specifically for DMDD. Here, we focus on psychosocial interventions. In addition to reviewing published research, we present preliminary, open trial data on a novel exposure-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) targeting severe irritability, as is present in DMDD.<h4>Recent findings</h4>In the published literature, parent management training (PMT) comprises parent-based interventions designed to treat youth disruptive behavior. Child-based interventions for disruptive behavior include CBT focused on social cognition and problem-solving. Based on identified treatment gaps for severe irritability in children and adolescents, novel psychosocial interventions are being developed. We have developed a CBT for severe irritability that integrates exposure techniques, drawn from anxiety treatment, with selected PMT techniques. Data from an open pilot trial (<i>N</i>=10) suggest feasibility.<h4>Summary</h4>Promising psychosocial treatments are being developed for DMDD. Future directions include testing these new therapies against extant interventions. Increased research on the biological and psychological mechanisms mediating irritability will further bridge the treatment gap for youth and families.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:Childhood irritability is a common, impairing problem with changing age-related manifestations that predict long-term adverse outcomes. However, more investigation of overall and age-specific neural correlates is needed. Because youths with irritability exhibit exaggerated responses to frustrating stimuli, the authors used a frustration functional MRI (fMRI) paradigm to examine associations between irritability and neural activation and tested the moderating effect of age. METHOD:The authors studied a transdiagnostic sample of 195 youths with varying levels of irritability (disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, N=52; anxiety disorder, N=42; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, N=40; and healthy volunteers, N=61). Irritability was measured by parent and child reports on the Affective Reactivity Index. The fMRI paradigm was a cued-attention task differentiating neural activity in response to frustration (rigged feedback) from activity during attention orienting in the trial following frustration. RESULTS:Whole-brain activation analyses revealed associations with irritability during attention orienting following frustration. Irritability was positively associated with frontal-striatal activation, specifically in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, and caudate. Age moderated the association between irritability and activation in some frontal and posterior regions (the anterior cingulate cortex, medial frontal gyrus, cuneus, precuneus, and superior parietal lobule [F=19.04-28.51, df=1, 189, partial eta squared=0.09-0.13]). Specifically, higher irritability was more strongly related to increased activation in younger youths compared with older youths. CONCLUSIONS:Following frustration, levels of irritability correlated with activity in neural systems mediating attention orienting, top-down regulation of emotions, and motor execution. Although most associations were independent of age, dysfunction in the anterior cingulate cortex and posterior regions was more pronounced in young children with irritability.
Project description:Irritability is an aspect of the negative affectivity domain of temperament, but in severe and dysregulated forms is a symptom of a range of psychopathologies. Better understanding of the neural underpinnings of irritability, outside the context of specific disorders, can help to understand normative variation but also characterize its clinical salience in psychopathology diagnosis. This study assessed brain activation during reward and frustration, domains of behavioral deficits in childhood irritability. Children (age 6-9) presenting in mental health clinics for extreme and impairing irritability (n = 26) were compared to healthy children (n = 28). Using developmentally sensitive methods, neural activation was measured via a negative mood induction paradigm during fMRI scanning. The clinical group displayed more activation of the anterior cingulate and middle frontal gyrus during reward, but less activation during frustration, than healthy comparison children. The opposite pattern was found in the posterior cingulate. Further, in clinical subjects, parent report of irritability was dimensionally related to decreased activation of the anterior cingulate and striatum during frustration. The results of this study indicate neural dysfunction within brain regions related to reward processing, error monitoring, and emotion regulation underlying clinically impairing irritability. Results are discussed in the context of a growing field of neuroimaging research investigating irritable children.
Project description:Importance:Comorbidity is ubiquitous in psychiatry, but it is unclear how to differentiate neural mechanisms of co-occurring symptoms. Pediatric irritability and anxiety symptoms are prevalent and frequently co-occur. Threat orienting is pertinent to both phenotypes and is an ideal context in which to examine their unique and common neural mechanisms. Objectives:To decompose the unique and shared variances of pediatric irritability and anxiety symptoms and to determine neural correlates of these differentiated phenotypes during threat orienting. Design, Setting, and Participants:This investigation was a cross-sectional functional magnetic resonance imaging study. The setting was a research clinic at the National Institute of Mental Health. Participants were youth aged 8 to 18 years spanning multiple diagnostic categories (141 youth with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, anxiety disorder, and/or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and 56 healthy youth). This combination provided wide variation in levels of irritability and anxiety symptoms. Data were acquired between June 30, 2012, and June 28, 2016. Main Outcomes and Measures:Participants and parents rated youth's irritability on the Affective Reactivity Index and anxiety on the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders. Bifactor analysis decomposed the unique and shared variances. A functional magnetic resonance imaging dot-probe task assessed attention orienting to angry (ie, threat) vs neutral faces. Whole-brain analyses examined associations between the bifactor-derived phenotypes and both neural activity and amygdala functional connectivity. Results:Among 197 participants included in the final analysis, the mean (SD) age was 13.1 (2.7) years, and 91 (46.2%) were female. The best-fit bifactor model (Comparative Fit Index, 0.959; Root Mean Square Error of Approximation, 0.066) included unique factors of parent-reported irritability, youth-reported irritability, and anxiety, as well as a common factor of negative affectivity. When the task required attention away from threat, higher parent-reported irritability was associated with increased activity in the insula, caudate, dorsolateral and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, and inferior parietal lobule (t189≥4.15 for all, P < .001 for all). In contrast, higher anxiety was associated with decreased amygdala connectivity to the cingulate, thalamus, and precentral gyrus (t189≤-4.19 for all, P < .001 for all). These distinctive neural correlates did not emerge using a diagnostic approach. Conclusions and Relevance:A latent variable approach to parsing co-occurring symptom dimensions revealed a novel double dissociation. During orientation away from threat, only irritability was associated with neural activity, whereas only anxiety was associated with amygdala connectivity. Despite the challenges of symptom co-occurrence for clinical neuroscience, data-driven phenotyping may facilitate a path forward.
Project description:Irritability is a prominent feature of chronic mental disorders and a developmental marker of their early emergence. The most salient feature of irritability in early childhood is temper tantrums. While temper tantrums are normative in young children, they can be clinically concerning when they are dysregulated, very frequent, and/or occur in unexpected contexts. The present study uses behavioral and event-related brain potential (ERP) measures to characterize the relationship between irritability and neural markers of response inhibition in very young children. Forty-six children (ages 4-7 years) completed a go/no-go task under nonfrustrating and frustrating conditions. ERPs elicited by go and no-go stimuli were examined as a function of frustration condition and irritability, operationalized via the well-validated Temper Loss scale of the Multidimensional Assessment Profile of Disruptive Behavior (MAP-DB). Higher Temper Loss scores were associated with larger N2no-go amplitudes and reduced no-go accuracy during frustration. This suggests that higher levels of irritability corresponded with increased conflict monitoring and poorer task performance during frustration. These findings add to a developing literature identifying the neurocognitive markers of varying levels of irritability in young children.
Project description:Exposure-based cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) for anxiety disorders is an effective intervention, but the brain mechanisms driving recovery are largely unknown. In this experimental medicine study, we investigated to what degree CBT affects neural markers of anxiety at an early stage of treatment, to identify dynamic mechanistic changes which might be crucial in the process of recovery as opposed to those seen following full treatment completion. In a randomised controlled trial, unmedicated patients with panic disorder either received four weekly sessions of exposure-based CBT (N?=?14) or were allocated to a waiting group (N?=?14). Symptom severity was measured before and after the intervention. During functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), patients performed an emotion regulation task, either viewing negative images naturally, or intentionally down-regulating negative affect using previously taught strategies. Four-session CBT led to marked reductions in symptoms and 71% of patients reached recovery status (versus 7% in the control group). This intervention normalised brain hyperactivation previously seen in panic disorder, particularly in areas linked to threat monitoring, fear memory, and maladaptive emotion regulation, such as amygdala, dorsomedial and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and temporal gyrus. Our findings suggest that optimal treatment doses for panic disorder might be much lower than previously thought. Furthermore, this is the first study to show that neural markers of anxiety change very early during CBT, highlighting potential neural mechanisms that might drive clinical recovery. Such knowledge is important for the development of more compact combination treatments targeting these mechanisms more effectively. (Neural Effects of Cognitive-behaviour Therapy in Panic Disorder; clinicaltrials.gov; NCT03251235).
Project description:OBJECTIVE:To examine the mediators and the potential of treatment matching to improve outcome for cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for insomnia. METHOD:Participants were 188 adults (117 women; Mage = 47.4 years, SD = 12.6) meeting the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.; text rev.; DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2000) diagnostic criteria for chronic insomnia (Mduration: 14.5 years, SD: 12.8). Participants were randomized to behavior therapy (BT; n = 63), cognitive therapy (CT; n = 65), or CBT (n = 60). The outcome measure was the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI). Hypothesized BT mediators were sleep-incompatible behaviors, bedtime variability (BTv), risetime variability (RTv) and time in bed (TIB). Hypothesized CT mediators were worry, unhelpful beliefs, and monitoring for sleep-related threat. RESULTS:The behavioral processes mediated outcome for BT but not CT. The cognitive processes mediated outcome in both BT and CT. The subgroup scoring high on both behavioral and cognitive processes had a marginally significant better outcome if they received CBT relative to BT or CT. The subgroup scoring relatively high on behavioral but low on cognitive processes and received BT or CBT did not differ from those who received CT. The subgroup scoring relatively high on cognitive but low on behavioral processes and received CT or CBT did not differ from those who received BT. CONCLUSION:The behavioral mediators were specific to BT relative to CT. The cognitive mediators were significant for both BT and CT outcomes. Patients exhibiting high levels of both behavioral and cognitive processes achieve better outcome if they receive CBT relative to BT or CT alone. (PsycINFO Database Record
Project description:BACKGROUND:Attention bias modification training (ABMT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) likely target different aspects of aberrant threat responses in anxiety disorders and may be combined to maximize therapeutic benefit. However, studies investigating the effect of ABMT in the context of CBT have yielded mixed results. Here, we propose an enhanced ABMT to target the attentional bias towards threat, in addition to classic CBT for anxiety disorders in youth. This enhanced ABMT integrates the modified dot-probe task used in previous studies, where a target is always presented at the previous location of the neutral and not the simultaneously presented threatening stimulus, with a visual search, where the targets are always presented distally of threatening distractors. These two training elements (modified dot-probe and visual search) are embedded in an engaging game to foster motivation and adherence. Our goal is to determine the efficacy of the enhanced ABMT in the context of CBT. Further, we aim to replicate two previous findings: (a) aberrant amygdala connectivity being the neurobiological correlate of the attentional bias towards threat at baseline; and (b) amygdala connectivity being a mediator of the ABMT effect. We will also explore moderators of treatment response (age, sex, depressive symptoms and irritability) on a behavioral and neuronal level. METHODS:One hundred and twenty youth (8-17?years old) with a primary anxiety disorder diagnosis all receive CBT and are randomized to nine weeks of either active or control ABMT and symptom improvement will be compared between the two study arms. We will also recruit 60 healthy comparison youth, who along with eligible anxious youth, will be assessed with the dot-probe task during fMRI (anxious youth: before and after training; healthy volunteers: second measurement twelve weeks after initial assessment). DISCUSSION:The present study will contribute to the literature by (1) potentially replicating that aberrant amygdala connectivity mediates the attentional bias towards threat in anxious youth; (2) determining the efficacy of enhanced ABMT; and (3) advancing our understanding of the mechanisms underlying ABMT. TRIAL REGISTRATION:Clinicaltrials.gov: NCT03283930 Trial registration date: September 14th 2017. The trial registration took place retrospectively. Data acquisition started February 1st 2017.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:In the treatment of anxiety disorders, attention bias modification therapy (ABMT) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may have complementary effects by targeting different aspects of perturbed threat responses and behaviors. ABMT may target rapid, implicit threat reactions, whereas CBT may target slowly deployed threat responses. The authors used amygdala-based connectivity during a threat-attention task and a randomized controlled trial design to evaluate potential complementary features of these treatments in pediatric anxiety disorders. METHOD:Prior to treatment, youths (8-17 years old) with anxiety disorders (N=54), as well as healthy comparison youths (N=51), performed a threat-attention task during functional MRI acquisition. Task-related amygdala-based functional connectivity was assessed. Patients with and without imaging data (N=85) were then randomly assigned to receive CBT paired with either active or placebo ABMT. Clinical response was evaluated, and pretreatment amygdala-based connectivity profiles were compared among patients with varying levels of clinical response. RESULTS:Compared with the CBT plus placebo ABMT group, the CBT plus active ABMT group exhibited less severe anxiety after treatment. The patient and healthy comparison groups differed in amygdala-insula connectivity during the threat-attention task. Patients whose connectivity profiles were most different from those of the healthy comparison group exhibited the poorest response to treatment, particularly those who received CBT plus placebo ABMT. CONCLUSIONS:The study provides evidence of enhanced clinical effects for patients receiving active ABMT. Moreover, ABMT appears to be most effective for patients with abnormal amygdala-insula connectivity. ABMT may target specific threat processes associated with dysfunctional amygdala-insula connectivity that are not targeted by CBT alone. This may explain the observation of enhanced clinical response to CBT plus active ABMT.