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Associations between irritability and neural activity during a frustrating attentional task

Monday, September 22, 2014 — Poster Session I

12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

FAES Academic Center



* FARE Award Winner


  • L.S. Machlin
  • W-L. Tseng
  • C.M. Deveney
  • K. Towbin
  • D.S. Pine
  • M.A. Brotman
  • E. Leibenluft


Introduction: Youth with severe, chronic irritability often display difficulties shifting attention while experiencing negative affect. However, the neurobiological bases of this emotion-attention interaction remain unclear. Method: Using an fMRI frustration paradigm, we examined the neural correlates of emotion-attention interaction in youth with varying levels of irritability and across diagnoses – severe mood dysregulation (SMD, n=16), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (n=13), anxiety disorder (n=16) and healthy volunteers (n=21). Each trial of the task included performing the attentional task and receiving feedback; we focused on the former. Results: Whole-brain analyses revealed hyperactivation in the fusiform gyrus in SMD youth, relative to all other groups, while performing the task immediately following frustrating feedback (ps<.05). Across diagnoses, parent-reported irritability showed differential associations with activation in the inferior frontal gyrus and cuneus during events preceded by frustrating feedback (ps<.005). Psychophysiological interaction analyses showed that, in SMD only, higher irritability was related to decreased functional connectivity between the amygdala and cingulate gyrus during events preceded by frustrating feedback (r=.76, p<.001). Discussion: These findings suggest that frustration may impact attentional flexibility, particularly in children with SMD or greater irritability, which is supported by aberrant neural activation and connectivity in regions implicated in attention, cognitive control, and emotion regulation.

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