Symposia > Mueller

Developmental Affective Neuroscience

Chair: Sven C. Mueller


This symposium aims to highlight the increasing role of developmental factors in cognitive affective neuroscience research. Specifically, the goal is to provide an up-to-date view on current developmental fMRI research in affective neuroscience from different perspectives. In the first talk, data on the contribution of pubertal hormones on socio-emotional processing will be presented. In that study, hormonal levels modulated response of the anterior temporal cortex during socio-emotional vs. basic emotion processing. In addition, the data will show a link between pubertal maturation and functional connectivity between dorsomedial PFC and the social brain network. In the second talk, the socio-emotional perspective will be extended to a risk-taking situation in which young adults gambled for monetary incentive. These data show that the magnitude of the striatal response depends on the beneficiary of the gambling decision, i.e., whether the beneficiary is oneself, a best friend, or a disliked person. The third talk will show comparative data between adolescents and adults during basic emotional processing of aversive conditioned responses. While group differences were restricted to activations in amygdala and hippocampal regions, differentiation in activation between the conditioned contexts emerged in the orbitofrontal cortex for both groups alike. The final talk will present evidence for developmental differences in emotional attention processing and conditioned learning. These findings are then discussed within a theoretical model that links these differences between adolescents and adults to discrepancies between stimulus-driven and goal-driven attention.

Talk 1:

The relationship between puberty and social brain development.
Anne-Lise Goddings1, Stephanie Burnett1, Eduard Klapwijk1,2, Geoffrey Bird1,3, Russell Viner1, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore1
1University College London, UK; 2University of Leiden, The Netherlands; 3Birkbeck College London,UK

The social brain undergoes developmental changes during adolescence, and it is hypothesized that pubertal hormones contribute to this development. We used fMRI to explore how pubertal indicators (salivary concentrations of testosterone, oestradiol and DHEA; and pubertal stage determined by Tanner staging and menarcheal status) relate to brain activity during a social emotion task. 42 females aged 11.0 to 13.7 years underwent fMRI scanning while reading scenarios that pertained either to social emotions, which require the representation of another person’s mental states, or to basic emotions, which do not.
Across the entire group, the social versus basic emotion processing contrast resulted in activity within the social brain network, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC), the posterior superior temporal sulci, and the anterior temporal cortex (ATC) in both hemispheres. The group comparison showed that increased hormone levels (independent of age) were associated with higher activity in the left ATC during social relative to basic emotion processing. More advanced age (independent of hormone levels) was associated with greater activity in the DMPFC during social relative to basic emotion processing. Psychophysiological interactions showed that participants in later stages of puberty had increased functional connectivity between the DMPFC and other social brain network regions. This pattern of results suggests functionally dissociable effects of pubertal hormones and age on the adolescent social brain.

Talk 2:

Reward-related neural responses are dependent on the beneficiary

Braams, B.R., Peper, J.S., Guroglu, B., de Water, E., Meuwese, R., Koolschijn, P.C.M.P & Crone, E.A.
Leiden University, The Netherlands

Rewards are primary reinforcers for human behavior. The involvement of the striatum in reward processing has been well established and shown in different studies, using different reinforcers such as money or food (Delgado, 2007). Most previous studies focused solely on neural responses associated with winning for the participant himself. In this study we investigated neural responses during a gambling task in which participants (N=34; 18 females) could win or lose money for themselves, their best friend or a disliked other person. Results indicate that the striatum shows a different pattern of activation for these three people. Winnings for yourself and best friend resulted in activation of the  striatum, whereas winnings for a disliked other did not result in an elevated striatum response. Furthermore, the outcomes for best friend and disliked other (both winning and losing) resulted in activation in medial prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the temporal parietal junction (TPJ), regions known to be part of the social brain network. Together, the results show that: (1) striatum activation to winning depends on the receiver of gain, and (2) medial PFC/TPJ activation is most pronounced for friends and others.

Talk 3:

Incidental contextual threat in adults and adolescents: an fMRI study

Mueller, S.C.
Department of Experimental Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Belgium

Recent developments chart the neuronal fear pathways during context conditioning. Yet, little is known how, and whether, the same pathways are activated during development given differences in maturation between structures involved in emotional and cognitive processing. Here, in an fMRI task, we used differential context conditioning to (aversive) facial stimuli that were either presented in a context in which conditioning could occur (room A) and a context in which no conditioning occurred (room B). Eighteen adolescents (9 female, mean age 14.92 years) and 18 IQ and sex-matched adults (9 female, mean age 31.22 years) were required to navigate through two different rooms in a virtual maze while encountering the conditioned stimuli. The results revealed a significant two-way interaction between context and threat cue in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). This interaction showed that activations to aversive faces relative to non-aversive faces were reduced in the conditioned context.
The reverse effect, larger activations for conditioned faces relative to non-conditioned faces were present in the non-conditioned context. In addition, presence in the conditioned context increased insula activation for both groups. Main effects of group on the other hand were restricted to heightened activations for adolescents relative to adults in amygdala and hippocampus. By comparison, no differences emerged on behavioural performance measures or fear ratings. The data implicate a differential role of the OFC in contextual threat. The findings are discussed in relation to recent findings in cue conditioning during development.

Talk 4:

The development of attentional systems and modulation of emotion across

Monique Ernst,

A number of heuristic models of the neurobiology of adolescent behavior have recently emerged, promoting the central role of reward and motivation, coupled with cognitive immaturities, in adolescent risk-taking proclivity. In contrast, fundamental processes such as attention or conditioning have not yet been considered as potential contributors to the unique characteristics of adolescent motivated behavior. Here, we will focus on two basic sets of processes, attention and conditioning, which are essential for adaptive behavior.
Using the dual-attention model developed by Corbetta and Shulman (2002), which identifies a stimulus-driven attention and a goal-driven attention network, we propose a balance that favor stimulus-driven attention over goal-driven attention in youth. Regarding conditioning, we hypothesize stronger associations of environmental cues with appetitive stimuli and weaker aversive associations in youth relative to adults. We will present this model, and provide preliminary supportive evidence.
An attention system geared to prioritize stimulus-driven attention, together with more powerful association-learning with appetitive incentives can provide an additional mechanism that can contribute to the impulsive, novelty-seeking and risk-taking behavior of the typical adolescent.

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