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Anticipation of peer evaluation in anxious adolescents: divergence in neural activation and maturation.

  • Author(s): Spielberg, Jeffrey M
  • Jarcho, Johanna M
  • Dahl, Ronald E
  • Pine, Daniel S
  • Ernst, Monique
  • Nelson, Eric E
  • et al.
Abstract

Adolescence is the time of peak onset for many anxiety disorders, particularly Social Anxiety Disorder. Research using simulated social interactions consistently finds differential activation in several brain regions in anxious (vs non-anxious) youth, including amygdala, striatum and medial prefrontal cortex. However, few studies examined the anticipation of peer interactions, a key component in the etiology and maintenance of anxiety disorders. Youth completed the Chatroom Task while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. Patterns of neural activation were assessed in anxious and non-anxious youth as they were cued to anticipate social feedback from peers. Anxious participants evidenced greater amygdala activation and rostral anterior cingulate (rACC)↔amygdala coupling than non-anxious participants during anticipation of feedback from peers they had previously rejected; anxious participants also evidenced less nucleus accumbens activation during anticipation of feedback from selected peers. Finally, anxiety interacted with age in rACC: in anxious participants, age was positively associated with activation to anticipated feedback from rejected peers and negatively for selected peers, whereas the opposite pattern emerged for non-anxious youth. Overall, anxious youth showed greater reactivity in anticipation of feedback from rejected peers and thus may ascribe greater salience to these potential interactions and increase the likelihood of avoidance behavior.

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