PERFORMANCE MONITORING AND TEMPERAMENTAL FEARFULNESS AS INDICES OF RISK FOR ANXIETY DURING PRESCHOOL

Open Access
Author:
Brooker, Rebecca Jo
Graduate Program:
Psychology
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
March 01, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Dr. Kristin A. Buss, Committee Chair
  • Dr. Pamela M. Cole, Committee Member
  • Dr. Lisa M. Gatzke-Kopp, Committee Member
  • Dr. Rick O. Gilmore, Committee Member
  • Dr. Jenae M. Neiderhiser, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • Anxiety Risk
  • Pe
  • ERN
  • Temperamental Fearfulness
Abstract:
The current study was designed to examine neurophysiological processes of performance monitoring that have been suggested as a mechanism of risk for the development of anxiety in early childhood. Children who were putatively at risk for anxiety problems based on early temperamental fearfulness were compared with low-fear children. In addition, two aspects of feedback were examined as possible modulators of response monitoring: social and nonsocial feedback. Forty children were tested using a modified flanker paradigm when they were 4.5 years of age. Accuracy and reaction time measures were assessed along with affective behaviors during the laboratory visit and event-related potentials linked with performance monitoring. Results suggested that two performance monitoring event-related potentials, the error-related negativity (ERN) and error positivity (Pe) were present in children at age 4½, much earlier than has been seen in previous research. Although ERN and Pe amplitudes did not differ for high-fear and low-fear children, the distribution of the ERN in high-fear children was more frontal than for low-fear children. This type of distribution is in line with previous theories suggesting that at-risk children show adult-like ERN earlier than children who are not at risk. In contrast, Pe amplitudes were more posterior for high-fear than for low-fear children. In addition, ERN was related to observed and parent-reported behaviors indicating better behavioral control only for low-fear children. Feedback condition was unrelated to fear status, parent-reported temperament, and observed behaviors. Overall, results suggest that the ERN and Pe are present much earlier in development than previously thought. Findings are presented in the framework of individual differences in performance monitoring and depicting early risk for disorder. Several avenues for future research are implicated, including the need to disentangle heterogeneous facets of risk and the development of response monitoring throughout childhood.