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Publications (3)6.25 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Objective Nonhuman and human studies have documented the adverse effects of early life stress (ELS) on emotion regulation and underlying neural circuitry. Less is known about how these experiences shape social processes and neural circuitry. In this study we thus investigated how ELS impacts children’s perception of, and neural response to, negative social experiences in a social exclusion paradigm (CyberBall). Method Twenty-five foster or adopted children with ELS (age 10.6±1.8y, 13 male) and 26 matched non-separated controls (age 10.38 ±1.7y, 12 male) took part in a CyberBall paradigm during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Results During peer rejection, children with ELS reported significantly more feelings of exclusion and frustration than non-separated controls. On the neural level, children with ELS showed reduced activation in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), and reduced connectivity between dlPFC-dACC, areas previously implicated in affect regulation. Conversely, children with ELS showed increased neural activation in brain regions involved in memory, arousal, and threat-related processing (middle temporal gyrus, thalamus, ventral tegmental area) relative to controls during social exclusion. The number of separation experiences before entering the permanent family predicted reductions in fronto-cingulate recruitment. The relationship between early separations and self-reported exclusion was mediated by dlPFC activity. Conclusion The findings suggest that ELS leads to alterations in neural circuitry implicated in the regulation of socioemotional processes. This neural signature may underlie foster children’s differential reactivity to rejection in everyday life and could increase risk for developing affective disorders.
    Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 12/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Fixed stimulus presentation times pose several methodological problems for developmental functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies that can be avoided by self-paced study designs. Yet, methodological issues of self-paced stimulus presentation for fMRI studies are largely understudied. Therefore, we compared sensitivity, reproducibility, and reliability of neural activation of a fixed and a self-paced design for an exact, non-symbolic addition paradigm in a sample of children aged 6-12 years. Both design types were comparable in sensitivity, and the self-paced design was superior in reproducibility and reliability. Therefore, self-paced study designs seem to be a valid option for developmental fMRI studies on higher cognition.
    Developmental Neuropsychology 01/2011; 36(6):721-40. · 2.90 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The purpose of the present study was to establish a short paradigm for the examination of classical aversive conditioning processes for application in patients with anxiety disorders. We measured behavioral, autonomic and neural correlates of the paradigm in healthy subjects, applying functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and measurement of skin conductance. Therefore, neutral visual stimuli were paired with an unpleasant white noise as unconditioned stimulus. Twenty healthy subjects performed three experimental phases of learning: familiarization, acquisition and extinction. Subjective ratings of valence and arousal after each phase of conditioning as well as skin conductance measurement indicated successful conditioning. During acquisition, fMRI results showed increased activation for the conditioned stimulus (CS+(unpaired)) when compared with the non-conditioned stimulus (CS-) in the right amygdala, the insulae, the anterior cingulate cortex and the parahippocampal gyrus, all regions known to be involved in emotional processing. In addition, a linearly decreasing activation in the right amygdala/hippocampus for the CS- across the acquisition phase was found. There were no significant differences between CS+ and CS- during extinction. In conclusion, the applicability of this paradigm for the evaluation of neural correlates in conditioning and extinction processes has been proven. Thus, we present a promising paradigm for the examination of the fear-circuit in patients with anxiety disorders and additionally effects of cognitive-behavioral interventions.
    European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience 02/2010; 260(6):443-53. · 3.36 Impact Factor