Brain Science

Frontal alpha asymmetry predicts inhibitory processing in youth with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder

-Alissa J. Ellis,* Chantelle Kinzel, Giulia C. Salgari, and  Sandra K. Loo

Atypical asymmetry in brain activity has been implicated in the behavioral and attentional dysregulation observed in ADHD. Specifically, asymmetry in neural activity in the right versus left frontal regions has been linked to ADHD, as well as to symptoms often associated with ADHD such as heightened approach behaviors, impulsivity and difficulties with inhibition. Clarifying the role of frontal asymmetry in ADHD-like traits, such as disinhibition, may provide information on the neurophysiological processes underlying these behaviors.  ADHD youth (ADHD: n = 25) and healthy, typically developing controls (TD: n = 25) underwent an electroencephalography (EEG) recording while completing a go/no-go task—a commonly used test measuring behavioral inhibition. In addition, advanced signal processing for source localization estimated the location of signal generators underlying frontal alpha asymmetry (FA) during correct and incorrect trials.  This is the first study in ADHD to demonstrate that the dorsal-lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) may be responsible for generating frontal alpha. During failed inhibition trials, ADHD youth displayed greater FA than TD youth. In addition, within the ADHD group, frontal asymmetry during later processing stages (i.e., 400–800 ms after stimulus) predicted a higher number of commission errors throughout the task.  These results suggest that frontal alpha asymmetry may be a specific biomarker of cognitive disinhibition among youth with ADHD.

The Role of Avoidance Motivation in the Relationship Between Reward Sensitivity and Depression Symptoms in Adolescents: An ERP study

-Alissa J. Ellis*, Giulia Salgari, David J. Miklowitz, and  Sandra K. Loo

Blunted neural responses to reward in an EEG paradigm (RewP) are associated with vulnerability to depression, but the pathways linking this biomarker to depressive symptoms are unclear. We examined whether the relationship between reward response (RewP mean amplitude and latency) and depression was in part explained by approach-motivated behaviors in adolescents with varying levels of depression. EEG was collected during a game rigged to provide win/loss trials. Longer RewP latency was associated with depression symptoms only when scores on a measure of avoidance motivation were included. These results suggest that treatments targeting avoidance may decrease vulnerability to depressive episodes.

Neural indices of performance monitoring are associated with daily emotional functioning in youth with anxiety disorders: An ERP and EMA study

-Patricia Z. Tan*, Lauren M. Bylsma, Jennifer S. Silk, Greg J. Siegle, Erika E. Forbes, Dana L. McMakin, Ronald E. Dahl, Neal D. Ryan, and  Cecile D. Ladouceur

Excessive monitoring of one’s performance is a characteristic of anxiety disorders that has been linked to alterations in implicit emotion regulation (ER), including elevations in neural measures of performance monitoring (i.e., error- and correct-related negativity; ERN and CRN). Elevations in ERN and CRN amplitudes have been reported consistently in anxiety disorders, suggesting that an overactive performance monitoring system is linked to ER difficulties in anxiety. Yet, the relevance of these lab-based neural measures for day-to-day emotional functioning remains poorly understood. This study examined the degree to which ERN and CRN amplitudes are associated with measures of daily ER difficulties in youth with anxiety disorders. Youth (N = 100, Mage = 11.14, SDage = 1.46) completed a computerized flanker task assessing the ERN and CRN. They then completed a 5-day ecological momentary assessment (EMA) protocol assessing their daily ER (i.e., intensity of momentary and peak negative affect, intensity of worry, reliance on maladaptive ER strategies). Results showed that more negative mean CRN amplitudes were associated with higher levels of negative emotional reactivity and more intense worries. There were no significant associations between ERN amplitude and EMA measures. Furthermore, elevations in CRN were linked to more frequent use of maladaptive ER strategies (i.e., rumination, physiological reactivity, avoidance). Together, results indicate that among youth with anxiety, individual differences in CRN, but not ERN, amplitudes are related to daily ER difficulties. Findings highlight the clinical utility of a lab-based neural measure of ER, suggesting that the CRN, rather than the ERN, reflects individual ER differences in the context of daily life among youth with pediatric anxiety disorders. As such, the CRN might serve as an important dimensional index of a treatment target that can be tracked with a validated, multi-method measure.

The ERN as a neural index of changes in performance monitoring following attention training in pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder

-Tan, Patricia Z., Rozenman, Michelle, Chang, Susanna W., Jurgiel, Joseph, Truong, Holly V., Piacentini, John, Loo, and Sandra K.

Evidence of associations between obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and alterations in neural indices of performance monitoring, i.e., elevated neural activity following errors, have accelerated interest in the error-related negativity (ERN) as a biomarker for pediatric OCD. The study investigates the degree to which attention bias training is linked to changes in neural measures of performance monitoring (ERN, correct response negativity or CRN) and whether pre-to-post training changes in these neural indices are associated with symptom changes in youth with OCD. The sample included 36 youth (8–17 years) diagnosed with OCD who completed a 12-session attention training program and pre- and post-training EEG assessment of performance monitoring using cognitive and emotional flanker tasks. The emotional flanker task was individualized to each participant’s negative ratings of stimuli at pre-treatment to enhance salience of threat-related stimuli across youth. Results indicated that unlike participants who received attentional control protocol (CON), those who received attentional bias modification protocol (ABM) showed significant attenuations in neural activity following erroneous and correct responses in the emotional flanker task. The ERN amplitude during the cognitive flanker task was unchanged in both ABM and CON groups. Attenuations in the ERN were also linked to decreases in social anxiety and depressive symptoms. Findings highlight the relevance of including emotionally-salient tasks when investigating potential neural mechanisms of treatments and suggest that alterations in neural processes underlying performance monitoring can be targeted via attention training programs in pediatric OCD. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved)