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Institutional caregiving is associated with significant deviations from species-expected caregiving, altering the normative sequence of attachment formation and placing children at risk for long-term emotional difficulties. However, little is known about factors that can promote resilience following early institutional caregiving. In the current study, we investigated how adaptations in affective processing (i.e., positive valence bias) and family-level protective factors (i.e., secure parent-child relationships) moderate risk for internalizing symptoms in previously institutionalized (PI) youth. Children and adolescents with and without a history of institutional care performed a laboratory-based affective processing task and self-reported measures of parent-child relationship security. PI youth were more likely than comparison youth to show positive valence biases when interpreting ambiguous facial expressions. Both positive valence bias and parent-child relationship security moderated the association between institutional care and parent-reported internalizing symptoms, such that greater positive valence bias and more secure parent-child relationships predicted fewer symptoms in PI youth. However, when both factors were tested concurrently, parent-child relationship security more strongly moderated the link between PI status and internalizing symptoms. These findings suggest that both individual-level adaptations in affective processing and family-level factors of secure parent-child relationships may ameliorate risk for internalizing psychopathology following early institutional caregiving.
The amygdala (AMG) has been repeatedly implicated in the processing of threatening and negatively valenced stimuli and multiple fMRI paradigms have reported personality, genetic, and psychopathological associations with individual differences in AMG activation in these paradigms. Yet the interchangeability of activations in these probes has not been established, thus it remains unclear if we can interpret AMG responses on specific tasks as general markers of its reactivity. In this study we aimed to assess if different tasks that have been widely used within the Affective Neuroscience literature consistently recruit the AMG.
METHOD - Thirty-two young healthy subjects completed four fMRI tasks that have all been previously shown to probe the AMG during processing of threatening stimuli: the Threat Face Matching (TFM), the Cued Aversive Picture (CAP), the Aversive and Erotica Pictures (AEP) and the Screaming Lady paradigm (SLp) tasks. Contrasts testing response to aversive stimuli relative to baseline or neutral stimuli were generated and correlations between activations in the AMG were calculated across tasks were performed for ROIs of the AMG.
RESULTS - The TFM, CAP and AEP, but not the SLp, successfully recruit the AMG, among other brain regions, especially when contrasts were against baseline or nonsocial stimuli. Conjunction analysis across contrasts showed that visual cortices (VisCtx) were also consistently recruited. Correlation analysis between the extracted data for right and left AMG did not yield significant associations across tasks. By contrast, the extracted signal in VisCtx showed significant associations across tasks (range r=0.511-r=0.630).
CONCLUSIONS - Three of the four paradigms revealed significant AMG reactivity, but individual differences in the magnitudes of AMG reactivity were not correlated across paradigms. By contrast, VisCtx activation appears to be a better candidate than the AMG as a measure of individual differences with convergent validity across negative emotion processing paradigms.
Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
BACKGROUND - Early life stress is associated with poorer social functioning. Attentional biases in response to threat-related cues, linked to both early experience and psychopathology, may explain this association. To date, however, no study has examined attentional biases to fearful facial expressions as a function of early life stress or examined these biases as a potential mediator of the relation between early life stress and social problems.
METHODS - In a sample of 154 children (ages 9-13 years) we examined the associations among interpersonal early life stressors (i.e., birth through age 6 years), attentional biases to emotional facial expressions using a dot-probe task, and social functioning on the Child Behavior Checklist.
RESULTS - High levels of early life stress were associated with both greater levels of social problems and an attentional bias away from fearful facial expressions, even after accounting for stressors occurring in later childhood. No biases were found for happy or sad facial expressions as a function of early life stress. Finally, attentional biases to fearful faces mediated the association between early life stress and social problems.
CONCLUSIONS - Attentional avoidance of fearful facial expressions, evidenced by a bias away from these stimuli, may be a developmental response to early adversity and link the experience of early life stress to poorer social functioning.
© 2016 Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.
Previous work found a small but significant relationship between holistic processing measured with the composite task and face recognition ability measured by the Cambridge Face Memory Test (CFMT; Duchaine & Nakayama, 2006). Surprisingly, recent work using a different measure of holistic processing (Vanderbilt Holistic Face Processing Test [VHPT-F]; Richler, Floyd, & Gauthier, 2014) and a larger sample found no evidence for such a relationship. In Experiment 1 we replicate this unexpected result, finding no relationship between holistic processing (VHPT-F) and face recognition ability (CFMT). A key difference between the VHPT-F and other holistic processing measures is that unique face parts are used on each trial in the VHPT-F, unlike in other tasks where a small set of face parts repeat across the experiment. In Experiment 2, we test the hypothesis that correlations between the CFMT and holistic processing tasks are driven by stimulus repetition that allows for learning during the composite task. Consistent with our predictions, CFMT performance was correlated with holistic processing in the composite task when a small set of face parts repeated over trials, but not when face parts did not repeat. A meta-analysis confirms that relationships between the CFMT and holistic processing depend on stimulus repetition. These results raise important questions about what is being measured by the CFMT, and challenge current assumptions about why faces are processed holistically.
One of the most important social identities that children learn to define themselves and others by is sex, becoming a salient social category by early childhood. Although older children begin to show greater flexibility in their gendered behaviors and attitudes, gender rigidity intensifies again around the time of puberty. In the current study, we assessed behavioral and neural biases to sex across a wide age group. Ninety-three youth (ages 7-17 years) provided behavioral rating of same- and opposite-sex attitudes, and 52 youth (ages 4-18 years) underwent an fMRI scan as they matched the emotion of same- and opposite-sex faces. We demonstrate significant age-related behavioral biases of sex that are mediated by differential amygdala response to opposite-sex relative to same-sex faces in children, an effect that completely attenuates by the teenage years. Moreover, we find a second peak in amygdala sensitivity to opposite-sex faces around the time of puberty. Thus, the amygdala codes for developmentally dependent and motivationally relevant social identification across development.
Social impairment is a core feature of schizophrenia, present from the pre-morbid stage and predictive of outcome, but the etiology of this deficit remains poorly understood. Successful and adaptive social interactions depend on one's ability to make rapid and accurate judgments about others in real time. Our surprising ability to form accurate first impressions from brief exposures, known as "thin slices" of behavior has been studied very extensively in healthy participants. We sought to examine affect and social trait judgment from thin slices of static or video stimuli in order to investigate the ability of schizophrenic individuals to form reliable social impressions of others. 21 individuals with schizophrenia (SZ) and 20 matched healthy participants (HC) were asked to identify emotions and social traits for actors in standardized face stimuli as well as brief video clips. Sound was removed from videos to remove all verbal cues. Clinical symptoms in SZ and delusional ideation in both groups were measured. Results showed a general impairment in affect recognition for both types of stimuli in SZ. However, the two groups did not differ in the judgments of trustworthiness, approachability, attractiveness, and intelligence. Interestingly, in SZ, the severity of positive symptoms was correlated with higher ratings of attractiveness, trustworthiness, and approachability. Finally, increased delusional ideation in SZ was associated with a tendency to rate others as more trustworthy, while the opposite was true for HC. These findings suggest that complex social judgments in SZ are affected by symptomatology.
Copyright © 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
The concept of holistic processing is a cornerstone of face recognition research, yet central questions related to holistic processing remain unanswered, and debates have thus far failed to reach a resolution despite accumulating empirical evidence. We argue that a considerable source of confusion in this literature stems from a methodological problem. Specifically, 2 measures of holistic processing based on the composite paradigm (complete design and partial design) are used in the literature, but they often lead to qualitatively different results. First, we present a comprehensive review of the work that directly compares the 2 designs, and which clearly favors the complete design over the partial design. Second, we report a meta-analysis of holistic face processing according to both designs and use this as further evidence for one design over the other. The meta-analysis effect size of holistic processing in the complete design is nearly 3 times that of the partial design. Effect sizes were not correlated between measures, consistent with the suggestion that they do not measure the same thing. Our meta-analysis also examines the correlation between conditions in the complete design of the composite task, and suggests that in an individual differences context, little is gained by including a misaligned baseline. Finally, we offer a comprehensive review of the state of knowledge about holistic processing based on evidence gathered from the measure we favor based on the 1st sections of our review-the complete design-and outline outstanding research questions in that new context.
PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved.
BACKGROUND - Neural habituation, the decrease in brain response to repeated stimulation, is a basic form of learning. There is strong evidence for behavioral and physiological habituation deficits in schizophrenia, and one previous study found reduced neural habituation within the hippocampus. However, it is unknown whether neural habituation deficits are specific to faces and limited to the hippocampus. Here we studied habituation of several brain regions in schizophrenia, using both face and object stimuli. Post-scan memory measures were administered to test for a link between hippocampal habituation and memory performance.
METHODS - During an fMRI scan, 23 patients with schizophrenia and 21 control subjects viewed blocks of a repeated neutral face or neutral object, and blocks of different neutral faces and neutral objects. Habituation in the hippocampus, primary visual cortex and fusiform face area (FFA) was compared between groups. Memory for faces, words, and word pairs was assessed after the scan.
RESULTS - Patients showed reduced habituation to faces in the hippocampus and primary visual cortex, but not the FFA. Healthy control subjects exhibited a pattern of hippocampal discrimination that distinguished between repeated and different images for both faces and objects, and schizophrenia patients did not. Hippocampal discrimination was positively correlated with memory for word pairs.
CONCLUSION - Patients with schizophrenia showed reduced habituation of the hippocampus and visual cortex, and a lack of neural discrimination between old and new images in the hippocampus. Hippocampal discrimination correlated with memory performance, suggesting reduced habituation may contribute to the memory deficits commonly observed in schizophrenia.
© 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Social Emotional NeuroScience Endocrinology Theatre is a novel intervention program aimed at improving reciprocal social interaction in youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using behavioral strategies and theatrical techniques in a peer-mediated model. Previous research using a 3-month model showed improvement in face perception, social interaction, and reductions in stress. The current study assessed a 2-week summer camp model. Typically developing peers were trained and paired with ASD youth (8-17 years). Social perception and interaction skills were measured before and after treatment using neuropsychological and parental measures. Behavioral coding by reliable, independent raters was conducted within the treatment context (theatre) and outside the setting (playground). Salivary cortisol levels to assess physiological arousal were measured across contexts (home, theatre, and playground). A pretest-posttest design for within-group comparisons was used, and prespecified pairwise comparisons were achieved using a nonparametric Wilcoxon signed-rank test. Significant differences were observed in face processing, social awareness, and social cognition (P < 0.05). Duration of interaction with familiar peers increased significantly over the course of treatment (P < 0.05), while engagement with novel peers outside the treatment setting remained stable. Cortisol levels rose on the first day of camp compared with home values yet declined by the end of treatment and further reduced during posttreatment play with peers. Results corroborate previous findings that the peer-mediated theatre program contributes to improvement in core social deficits in ASD using a short-term, summer camp treatment model. Future studies will explore treatment length and peer familiarity to optimize and generalize gains.
© 2013 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Recent human imaging and animal studies highlight the importance of frontoamygdala circuitry in the regulation of emotional behavior and its disruption in anxiety-related disorders. Although tracing studies have suggested changes in amygdala-cortical connectivity through the adolescent period in rodents, less is known about the reciprocal connections within this circuitry across human development, when these circuits are being fine-tuned and substantial changes in emotional control are observed. The present study examined developmental changes in amygdala-prefrontal circuitry across the ages of 4-22 years using task-based functional magnetic resonance imaging. Results suggest positive amygdala-prefrontal connectivity in early childhood that switches to negative functional connectivity during the transition to adolescence. Amygdala-medial prefrontal cortex functional connectivity was significantly positive (greater than zero) among participants younger than 10 years, whereas functional connectivity was significantly negative (less than zero) among participants 10 years and older, over and above the effect of amygdala reactivity. The developmental switch in functional connectivity was paralleled by a steady decline in amygdala reactivity. Moreover, the valence switch might explain age-related improvement in task performance and a developmentally normative decline in anxiety. Initial positive connectivity followed by a valence shift to negative connectivity provides a neurobiological basis for regulatory development and may present novel insight into a more general process of developing regulatory connections.