Emotion regulation is a key social skill and children who fail to master it are at risk for clinical disorders. Specific styles of emotion regulation have been associated with particular patterns of prefrontal activation. We investigated whether anxious aggressive children would reveal a different pattern of cortical activation than non-anxious aggressive children and normally-developing children. We examined the magnitude and timing of source activation underlying the N2-an ERP associated with inhibitory control-during a go/nogo task with a negative emotion induction component (loss of earned points). We estimated cortical activation for two regions of interest-a ventral prefrontal and a dorsomedial prefrontal region-for three 100-ms windows over the range of the N2 (200-500. ms). Anxious aggressive children showed high ventral prefrontal activation in the early window; non-anxious aggressive children showed high ventral prefrontal activation in the late window, but only for the duration of the emotion induction; and normally-developing children showed low ventral prefrontal activation throughout. There were no group differences in dorsomedial prefrontal activation. These results suggest that anxious aggressive children recruit ventral prefrontal activation quickly and indiscriminately, possibly giving rise to their rigid, threat-oriented approach to conflict. The late ventral prefrontal activation seen for non-anxious aggressive children may underlie a more delayed, situation-specific, but ineffective response to frustration.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support provided by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
- Emotion regulation
- Event-related potentials
- Inhibitory control
- Ventral prefrontal cortex