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Neural correlates of implicit face-emotion processing in youth with severe irritability

Monday, September 22, 2014 — Poster Session I

12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

FAES Academic Center




  • B. Sharif-Askary
  • J. Stoddard
  • P. Kim
  • J. Yi
  • K. Hinton
  • M.A. Brotman
  • D. Pine
  • E. Leibenluft


Background: Youths with severe irritability have face-emotion labeling deficits and an attentional bias towards social threat. Here, we examine the neural correlates of face-emotion processing in youths with chronic and severe irritability (disruptive mood dysregulation disorder; DMDD). Methods: 34 DMDD and 34 healthy volunteers (HV) (ages 8-18) completed an implicit (i.e., gender identification) face-emotion processing task with faces varying in affect and intensity during fMRI. Group differences in BOLD signal response to face-emotion (angry, fearful, happy) at different intensities (0=neutral affect, 50%, 100%, and 150%) were tested. Differences were thresholded voxelwise at p≤0.005 and FWE corrected at α=0.05. Results: HV and DMDD youths differed in BOLD responses to facial affects at different intensities in bilateral fusiform gyri (right: F(6,396)=8.3, p<0.001, k=170; left: F(6,396)=7.2, p<0.001, k=114), right precuneus (F(6,396)=5.1, p<0.001, k=76), and two cerebellar areas. In the fusiform gyri, DMDD youths had greater activation than HV youths to 150% angry faces, while, HV youths had more activation than DMDD youths to 150% happy faces (p’s<0.05). Conclusions: Aberrant neural responses to angry and happy affect in cortical areas that mediate attention to emotional faces suggest a neural pathophysiology of face-emotion impairments in severely irritable youth and may be a therapeutic target.

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