Effective Connectivity During Affective Prosody Processing in Children

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Maggi, Mirella C
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 24, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Pamela M. Cole, Dissertation Advisor
  • Pamela M. Cole, Committee Chair
  • Koraly Pérez-Edgar, Committee Member
  • K. Suzanne Scherf, Committee Member
  • Gregory M. Fosco, Outside Member
  • effective connectivity
  • affective prosody
  • children
Affective prosody is defined as the paralingustic cues in the voice that convey emotions (Banse & Scherer, 1996). Before they are able to accurately label prosodies, infants and young children perceive and discriminate among them. It is likely that physical properties of the emotional environment, including affective prosodies, influence children’s developmental outcomes. Yet little is known about children’s neural processing of affective prosody cues as the majority of the neuroimaging studies examining the neural correlates of affective prosody processing has been conducted with adults, with the exception of a small body of literature on infants. Seeking to address this gap, this dissertation investigated neural processing of affective prosody in 6-to-10-year old children. It was hypothesized that affective prosody would be associated with effective connectivity among neural regions identified by two prominent neuroscience models. Furthermore, it was hypothesized that affective prosody would modulate effective connectivity. To investigate these questions data from a study utilizing functional magnetic resonance imaging were examined using effective connectivity analyses and graph theory measures. Results partially supported the hypotheses. At the group level, effective connectivity was observed only among regions identified by one of the neuroscience models. However, analyses revealed heterogeneity in effective connectivity at the individual level indicating that all regions were implicated in and functionally connected when children processed different prosodies. Moreover, analyses of graph theory metrics indicated that there were no differences in effective connectivity at the global network level, however there were differences in properties of specific nodes when children processed angry prosody relative to neutral prosody. These findings and implications for future studies are discussed.