Early Adverse Experiences and the Neurobiology of Facial Emotion Processing
ABSTRACT To examine the neurobiological consequences of early institutionalization, the authors recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) from 3 groups of Romanian children--currently institutionalized, previously institutionalized but randomly assigned to foster care, and family-reared children--in response to pictures of happy, angry, fearful, and sad facial expressions of emotion. At 3 assessments (baseline, 30 months, and 42 months), institutionalized children showed markedly smaller amplitudes and longer latencies for the occipital components P1, N170, and P400 compared to family-reared children. By 42 months, ERP amplitudes and latencies of children placed in foster care were intermediate between the institutionalized and family-reared children, suggesting that foster care may be partially effective in ameliorating adverse neural changes caused by institutionalization. The age at which children were placed into foster care was unrelated to their ERP outcomes at 42 months. Facial emotion processing was similar in all 3 groups of children; specifically, fearful faces elicited larger amplitude and longer latency responses than happy faces for the frontocentral components P250 and Nc. These results have important implications for understanding of the role that experience plays in shaping the developing brain.
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ABSTRACT: Face recognition depends on visual experience in a number of different ways. Infrequent exposure to faces belonging to categories defined by species, age, or race can lead to diminished memory for and discrimination between members of those categories relative to faces belonging to categories that dominate an observer's environment. Early visual impairment can also have long-lasting and broad effects on face discrimination - just a few months of visual impairment due to congenital cataracts can lead to diminished discrimination between faces that differ in their configuration, for example (Le Grand et al., 2001). Presently, we consider a novel aspect of visual experience that may impact face recognition: The approximate amount of different faces observers encountered during their childhood. We recruited undergraduate observers from small (500-1000 individuals) and large communities (30,000-100,000 individuals) and asked them to complete a standard face memory test and a basic ERP paradigm designed to elicit a robust N170 response, including the classic face inversion effect. We predicted that growing up in a small community might lead to diminished face memory and an N170 response that was less specific to faces. These predictions were confirmed, suggesting that the sheer number of faces one can interact with during their upbringing shapes their behavioral abilities and the functional architecture of face processing in the brain. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd.Neuropsychologia 02/2015; 69. DOI:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2015.02.005 · 3.45 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: We tested the capacity to perceive visual expressions of emotion, and to use those expressions as guides to social decisions, in three groups of 8- to 10-year-old Romanian children: children abandoned to institutions then randomly assigned to remain in ‘care as usual’ (institutional care); children abandoned to institutions then randomly assigned to a foster care intervention; and community children who had never been institutionalized. Experiment 1 examined children's recognition of happy, sad, fearful, and angry facial expressions that varied in intensity. Children assigned to institutional care had higher thresholds for identifying happy expressions than foster care or community children, but did not differ in their thresholds for identifying the other facial expressions. Moreover, the error rates of the three groups of children were the same for all of the facial expressions. Experiment 2 examined children's ability to use facial expressions of emotion to guide social decisions about whom to befriend and whom to help. Children assigned to institutional care were less accurate than foster care or community children at deciding whom to befriend; however, the groups did not differ in their ability to decide whom to help. Overall, although there were group differences in some abilities, all three groups of children performed well across tasks. The results are discussed in the context of theoretical accounts of the development of emotion processing.Developmental Science 07/2014; 18(2). DOI:10.1111/desc.12217 · 3.89 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: An important function of the brain is to scan incoming sensory information for the presence of relevant signals and act on this information. For humans, the most salient signals are often social in nature, such as the identity and the emotional expression of the faces we encounter in our everyday lives. It can be argued that our survival as a species depends in large measure on these skills.Development and Psychopathology 05/2013; 25(2):517-25. DOI:10.1017/S0954579412001216 · 4.89 Impact Factor