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ENDURING INFLUENCE OF EARLY TEMPERAMENT ON NEURAL MECHANISMS MEDIATING ATTENTION–EMOTION CONFLICT IN ADULTS

Authors

  • Johanna M. Jarcho Ph.D.,

    Corresponding author
    1. Section on Developmental and Affective Neuroscience, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland
    • Correspondence to: Johanna M. Jarcho, Section on Developmental and Affective Neuroscience, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, 9000 Rockville Pike, Building 15K, Bethesda, MD 20892. E-mail: johanna.jarcho@nih.gov

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  • Nathan A. Fox Ph.D.,

    1. Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland
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  • Daniel S. Pine M.D.,

    1. Section on Developmental and Affective Neuroscience, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland
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  • Ellen Leibenluft M.D.,

    1. Section on Bipolar Spectrum Disorders, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland
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  • Tomer Shechner Ph.D.,

    1. Section on Developmental and Affective Neuroscience, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland
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  • Kathryn A. Degnan Ph.D.,

    1. Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland
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  • Koraly Perez-Edgar Ph.D.,

    1. Department of Psychology and Child Study Center, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
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  • Monique Ernst M.D., Ph.D.

    1. Section on Developmental and Affective Neuroscience, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland
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  • Contract grant sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health Grant; Contract grant number: NAF: R01 MH 074454; Contract grant sponsor: National Institute of Child Health and Development Grant; Contract grant number: NAF: 5R37 HD 017899-20.

Abstract

Background

Behavioral inhibition, a temperament identified in early childhood, is often associated with dysregulated attention and affective processing, particularly in response to threat. Longitudinal studies find that the manifestation of perturbed attention and affective processing often dissipates with age. Yet, childhood behavioral inhibition continues to predict perturbed brain function into adulthood. This suggests that adults with childhood behavioral inhibition may engage compensatory processes to effectively regulate emotion-related attention. However, it is unknown whether perturbations in brain function reflect compensation for attention bias to emotional stimuli generally, or to threatening contexts more specifically. The present study tests these possibilities.

Methods

Adults with and without a history of stable childhood behavioral inhibition completed an attention-control task in the context of threatening and nonthreatening stimuli while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. Participants were asked to identify the gender of fearful (threatening) and happy (nonthreatening) faces, while ignoring both the face emotion and overlaid congruent (low attention control, LAC) or incongruent (high attention control, HAC) gender words.

Results

When fearful faces were present, adults with stable childhood behavioral inhibition exhibited more activity in striatum, cingulate, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex for HAC trials compared with LAC trials, relative to those without behavioral inhibition. When happy faces were present, the opposite activation pattern emerged. No group differences in behavior were observed.

Conclusions

Among adults, stable childhood behavioral inhibition predicts neural, but not behavioral, responding when attention control is engaged in discrete emotional contexts. This suggests a mechanism by which adults may compensate for the behavioral manifestation of threat-based attention biases.

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