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The role of resting frontal EEG asymmetry in psychopathology: Afferent or efferent filter?



Resting EEG asymmetry evident early in life is thought to bias affective behaviors and contribute to the development of psychopathology. However, it remains unclear at what stage of information processing this bias occurs. Asymmetry may serve as an afferent filter, modulating emotional reactivity to incoming stimuli; or as an efferent filter, modulating behavioral response tendencies under emotional conditions. This study examines 209 kindergarten children (M = 6.03 years old) to test predictions put forth by the two models. Resting asymmetry was examined in conjunction with electrodermal and cardiac measures of physiological reactivity to four emotion-inducing film clips (fear, sad, happy, anger) and teacher ratings of psychopathology. Results confirm an association between increased right side cortical activation and internalizing symptom severity as well as left activation and externalizing symptom severity. Significant interactions between resting asymmetry and physiological reactivity to emotion indicate that physiological reactivity moderates the association between resting asymmetry and symptoms of psychopathology. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 56: 73–85, 2014.