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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00125

The moderating effect of self-reported state and trait anxiety on the Late Positive Potential to emotional faces in 6-11-year-old children.

 Georgia Chronaki1*,  Samantha Broyd2, Matthew Garner3, Nicholas Benikos4,  Margaret Thompson3,  Edmund Sonuga-Barke5 and Julie Hadwin3
  • 1University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom
  • 2University of Wollongong, Australia
  • 3University of Southampton, United Kingdom
  • 4Independent researcher, Australia
  • 5King's College London, United Kingdom

Introduction: The emergence of anxiety during childhood is accompanied by the development of attentional biases to threat. However, the neural mechanisms underlying these biases are poorly understood. In addition, previous research has not examined whether state and trait anxiety are independently associated with threat-related biases.
Methods: We compared ERP waveforms during the processing of emotional faces in a population sample of 58 6-11-year-olds who completed self-reported measures of trait and state anxiety and depression.
Results: The results showed that the P1 was larger to angry than neutral faces in the left hemisphere, though early components (P1, N170) were not strongly associated with child anxiety or depression. In contrast, Late Positive Potential (LPP) amplitudes to angry (versus neutral) faces were significantly and positively associated with symptoms of anxiety/depression. In addition, the difference between LPPs for angry (versus neutral) faces was independently associated with state and trait anxiety symptoms.
Discussion: The results showed that neural responses to facial emotion in children with elevated symptoms of anxiety and depression were most evident at later processing stages characterised as evaluative and effortful. The findings support cognitive models of threat perception in anxiety and indicate that trait elements of anxiety and more transitory fluctuations in anxious affect are important in understanding individual variation in the neural response to threat in late childhood.

Keywords: emotion, ERPs, Anxiety, Child Development, Face

Received: 28 Jul 2017; Accepted: 25 Jan 2018.

Edited by:

Nicola K. Ferdinand, Saarland University, Germany

Reviewed by:

Stefanie Hoehl, University of Vienna, Austria
Kristin A. Buss, Pennsylvania State University, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Chronaki, Broyd, Garner, Benikos, Thompson, Sonuga-Barke and Hadwin. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Georgia Chronaki, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, Lancashire, United Kingdom, GChronaki@uclan.ac.uk