Reduced electrodermal fear conditioning from ages 3 to 8 years is associated with aggressive behaviour at age 8 years. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51, 550-558

Department of Criminology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6286, USA.
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 6.46). 09/2009; 51(5):550-8. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2009.02176.x
Source: PubMed


Poor fear conditioning characterizes adult psychopathy and criminality, but it is not known whether it is related to aggressive/antisocial behavior in early childhood.
Using a differential, partial reinforcement conditioning paradigm, electrodermal activity was recorded from 200 male and female children at ages 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8 years. Antisocial/aggressive and hyperactive-inattentive measures were collected at age 8.
Poor electrodermal fear conditioning from ages 3 to 8 years was associated with aggressive behavior at age 8 in both males and females.
Results indicate that the relationship between poor fear conditioning and aggression occurs early in childhood. Enhanced electrodermal fear conditioning may protect children against future aggressive/violent behavior. Abnormal amygdala functioning, as indirectly assessed by fear conditioning, may be one of the factors influencing the development of childhood aggression.

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Available from: Michael E Dawson, Dec 27, 2013
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    • "2012 ) . Our results also dovetail with findings linking reduced amygdala activation to aggressive behavior ( Mathiak & Weber , 2006 ) and with findings linking hyporesponsiveness of fear conditioning circuitry ( insula , an - terior cingulate cortex , and amygdala ) to callous – unemo - tional traits , conduct disorder , and antisocial behavior ( Gao et al . , 2010 ; Shirtcliff et al . , 2009 ) . Consistent with this , Blair , Leibenluft , and Pine ( 2014 ) point to " deficient empa - thy " as one of the key neurocognitive dysfunctions appearing in youth with callous – unemotional traits , with reduced amyg - dala responding to facial emotions as one potential pathway . It is notable that our find"
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    Development and Psychopathology 06/2015; -1:1-12. DOI:10.1017/S0954579415000528 · 4.89 Impact Factor
    • "In a prospective study, fear conditioning using electrodermal responsivity was assessed in children at ages 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8. It was shown that poor fear conditioning from ages 3 to 8 years is associated with aggression at age 8 (Gao et al., 2010a). Furthermore , it appeared that poor fear conditioning at age 3 predisposes an individual to crime at age 23 (Gao et al., 2010b). "
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    ABSTRACT: This review discusses neurobiological studies of oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder within the conceptual framework of three interrelated mental domains: punishment processing, reward processing, and cognitive control. First, impaired fear conditioning, reduced cortisol reactivity to stress, amygdala hyporeactivity to negative stimuli, and altered serotonin and noradrenaline neurotransmission suggest low punishment sensitivity, which may compromise the ability of children and adolescents to make associations between inappropriate behaviors and forthcoming punishments. Second, sympathetic nervous system hyporeactivity to incentives, low basal heart rate associated with sensation seeking, orbitofrontal cortex hyporeactiviy to reward, and altered dopamine functioning suggest a hyposensitivity to reward. The associated unpleasant emotional state may make children and adolescents prone to sensation-seeking behavior such as rule breaking, delinquency, and substance abuse. Third, impairments in executive functions, especially when motivational factors are involved, as well as structural deficits and impaired functioning of the paralimbic system encompassing the orbitofrontal and cingulate cortex, suggest impaired cognitive control over emotional behavior. In the discussion we argue that more insight into the neurobiology of oppositional defiance disorder and conduct disorder may be obtained by studying these disorders separately and by paying attention to the heterogeneity of symptoms within each disorder.
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    • "In a prospective study, fear conditioning using electrodermal responsivity was assessed in children at ages 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8. It was shown that poor fear conditioning from ages 3–8 years is associated with aggression at age 8 (Gao et al. 2010a). Furthermore , it appeared that poor fear conditioning at age 3 predisposes to crime at age 23 (Gao et al. 2010b). "
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