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Resting frontal EEG asymmetry in children: Meta-analyses of the effects of psychosocial risk factors and associations with internalizing and externalizing behavior

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Asymmetry of frontal cortical electroencephalogram (EEG) activity in children is influenced by the social environment and considered a marker of vulnerability to emotional and behavioral problems. To determine the reliability of these associations, we used meta-analysis to test whether variation in resting frontal EEG asymmetry is consistently associated with a) having experienced psychosocial risk (e.g., parental depression or maltreatment) and b) internalizing and externalizing behavior outcomes in children ranging from newborns to adolescents. Three meta-analyses including 38 studies (N = 2,523) and 50 pertinent effect sizes were carried out. The studies included in the analyses reported associations between frontal EEG asymmetry and psychosocial risk (k = 20; predominantly studies with maternal depression as the risk factor) as well as internalizing (k = 20) and externalizing (k = 10) behavior outcomes. Psychosocial risk was significantly associated with greater relative right frontal asymmetry, with an effect size of d = 0.36 (p < .01), the effects being stronger in girls. A non-significant relation was observed between right frontal asymmetry and internalizing symptoms (d = 0.19, p = .08), whereas no association between left frontal asymmetry and externalizing symptoms was observed (d = 0.04, p = .79). Greater relative right frontal asymmetry appears to be a fairly consistent marker of the presence of familial stressors in children but the power of frontal asymmetry to directly predict emotional and behavioral problems is modest.
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META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
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To appear in Developmental Psychobiology
Resting frontal EEG asymmetry in children: Meta-analyses of the effects of
psychosocial risk factors and associations with internalizing and externalizing
behavior
Mikko J. Peltolaa,b,c, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburgb,c, Lenneke R. A. Alinkb,c,
Renske Huffmeijerb,c, Szilvia Birob,c, & Marinus H. van IJzendoornb,c
a School of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Tampere, Finland
b Centre for Child and Family Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands
c Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden University, The Netherlands
Running head: META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
Correspondence to: Mikko Peltola, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, FIN-
33014 University of Tampere, Finland. Tel. +358503186120, e-mail:
mikko.peltola@uta.fi
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
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Abstract
Asymmetry of frontal cortical electroencephalogram (EEG) activity in children is
influenced by the social environment and considered a marker of vulnerability to
emotional and behavioral problems. To determine the reliability of these associations,
we used meta-analysis to test whether variation in resting frontal EEG asymmetry is
consistently associated with a) having experienced psychosocial risk (e.g., parental
depression or maltreatment) and b) internalizing and externalizing behavior outcomes
in children ranging from newborns to adolescents. Three meta-analyses including 38
studies (N = 2,523) and 50 pertinent effect sizes were carried out. The studies
included in the analyses reported associations between frontal EEG asymmetry and
psychosocial risk (k = 20; predominantly studies with maternal depression as the risk
factor) as well as internalizing (k = 20) and externalizing (k = 10) behavior outcomes.
Psychosocial risk was significantly associated with greater relative right frontal
asymmetry, with an effect size of d = 0.36 (p < .01), the effects being stronger in girls.
A non-significant relation was observed between right frontal asymmetry and
internalizing symptoms (d = 0.19, p = .08), whereas no association between left
frontal asymmetry and externalizing symptoms was observed (d = 0.04, p = .79).
Greater relative right frontal asymmetry appears to be a fairly consistent marker of the
presence of familial stressors in children but the power of frontal asymmetry to
directly predict emotional and behavioral problems is modest.
Keywords: children; electroencephalogram; frontal asymmetry; psychosocial risk;
depression; maltreatment; internalizing; externalizing
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
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Introduction
A common goal in the field of developmental psychopathology is to determine
biomarkers that show reliable associations with children’s vulnerability to emotional
or behavioral problems. Among the candidate markers, a considerable amount of
attention has been devoted to patterns of hemispheric asymmetry in frontal
electroencephalogram (EEG) alpha-band activity. The interest in frontal EEG
asymmetry in developmental research is largely due to the fairly consistent pattern of
greater relative right-sided frontal EEG asymmetry observed in currently and
previously depressed adults (e.g., Henriques & Davidson, 1990; Schaffer, Davidson,
& Saron, 1983). In the present study, we used meta-analysis on 38 studies (N = 2,523)
to test whether children’s frontal EEG asymmetry is consistently associated with a)
the presence of psychosocial risk factors such as parental depression or child
maltreatment, and b) child internalizing and externalizing behavior.
Frontal EEG alpha asymmetry refers to the difference in the amount of cortical
activity in one hemisphere relative to the other. Asymmetry scores are computed from
the EEG signal as the difference in ln-transformed EEG power within the alpha
frequency band (8-13 Hz in adults, 6-9 Hz in infants and young children; Marshall,
Bar-Haim, & Fox, 2002) between left and right frontal electrode sites (i.e., ln-right
minus ln-left). The typical experimental setup for EEG asymmetry consists of 1 to 8
minutes of resting/baseline recording during which external stimulation is minimal or
kept constant and neutral. As power in the alpha frequency band is inversely related to
neural activity in the underlying cortex (i.e., stronger power indicating less activity;
Lindsley & Wicke, 1974), positive alpha asymmetry scores are considered to reflect
greater relative left frontal cortical activity, whereas negative scores reflect greater
relative right frontal cortical activity.
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
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The functional significance of asymmetrical frontal cortical activity is often
interpreted from the perspective of the approach/withdrawal model (Davidson,
Ekman, Saron, Senulis, & Friesen, 1990; Davidson, 1992; S. K. Sutton & Davidson,
1997) which relates asymmetries in frontal brain activity to basic motivational
tendencies, with the left frontal areas subserving approach motivation and the right
frontal areas subserving withdrawal motivation. A considerable body of research has
shown that in adults, depression is associated with greater relative right frontal
cortical activity (see Thibodeau, Jorgensen, & Kim, 2006, for meta-analytic
evidence), even in individuals in remission from depression (Gotlib, Ranganath, &
Rosenfeld, 1998; Henriques & Davidson, 1990). Right-sided frontal asymmetry may
thus be an endophenotype of a trait-like withdrawal motivation associated with
internalizing psychopathology such as depression and anxiety (Allen & Cohen, 2010;
Davidson, Marshall, Tomarken, & Henriques, 2000).
The motivational model makes a crucial distinction between motivational
direction and affective valence by arguing that asymmetrical frontal cortical activity
promotes motivational tendencies to approach and withdraw independently of the
affective valence underlying such tendencies (Harmon-Jones, Gable, & Peterson,
2010). Indeed, although left-sided frontal EEG asymmetry is associated with higher
positive emotionality (Tomarken, Davidson, Wheeler, & Doss, 1992), negatively
valenced externalizing behaviors that are related to approach (rather than withdrawal)
tendencies, such as trait and state anger, have been shown to be associated with
greater relative left frontal EEG activity as well (Harmon-Jones & Allen, 1998;
Harmon-Jones & Sigelman, 2001; Verona, Sadeh, & Curtin, 2009).
Frontal cortical asymmetry is also influenced by the early social environment,
with a particularly rich literature on the associations between maternal depression and
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
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EEG asymmetry in infants and young children (see Field & Diego, 2008, for a
review). Several studies have observed greater right frontal EEG asymmetry in infants
of depressed vs. non-depressed mothers (e.g., Dawson, Frey, Panagiotides, Osterling,
& Hessl, 1997; Diego, Field, Jones, & Hernandez-Reif, 2006; Field, Fox, Pickens, &
Nawrocki, 1995), and similar findings have been observed in adolescents of depressed
mothers regardless of the adolescents’ own depression levels (Tomarken, Dichter,
Garber, & Simien, 2004). Research investigating the influence of other types of
psychosocial risk factors on children’s patterns of frontal EEG asymmetry is scarce. A
small number of studies have investigated whether the risks posed by insensitive
maternal caregiving (Hane & Fox, 2006), parental alcohol dependence (Ehlers, Wall,
Garcia-Andrade, & Phillips, 2001), and more severe conditions such as early
institutionalization (McLaughlin, Fox, Zeanah, & Nelson, 2011) and child
maltreatment (Curtis & Cicchetti, 2007; Miskovic, Schmidt, Georgiades, Boyle, &
MacMillan, 2009) are also associated with right-sided EEG asymmetry. While some
studies have documented strong effects of psychosocial risk factors in determining the
extent and direction of children’s frontal EEG asymmetry (Diego et al., 2006; Jones et
al., 1998; Miskovic et al., 2009), others have found no significant differences between
children experiencing high vs. low risk (Dawson, Klinger, Panagiotides, Hill, &
Spieker, 1992; Lusby, Goodman, Bell, & Newport, 2014). One highly unexplored
question concerns the ontogenetic mechanisms linking psychosocial risk to variations
in frontal asymmetry, i.e., whether genetic or experience-based effects are more
influential in shaping children’s frontal cortical activity. While the large effects
observed already in newborn infants of depressed mothers (Field, Diego, Hernandez-
Reif et al., 2004) may be taken to indicate a genetic disposition to greater right-sided
asymmetry in some individuals, longitudinal investigations aimed at producing long-
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
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lasting changes in children’s exposure to psychosocial risks are required to address
this issue comprehensively.
Greater right-sided EEG asymmetry is commonly interpreted as a marker of
heightened risk of psychopathology and emotional dysregulation in children. To
directly test whether patterns of frontal EEG asymmetry can be considered as markers
of vulnerability to the development of emotional and behavioral problems, studies
have investigated the relations between EEG asymmetry and internalizing and
externalizing behavior outcomes in preschool and school age children, with both
concurrent and prospective study designs. In keeping with the model based on cortical
asymmetries and direction of motivational tendencies in adults (Harmon-Jones et al.,
2010), it can be hypothesized that internalizing symptoms (e.g., depression, anxiety,
and social withdrawal) would show associations with greater relative right
asymmetry, whereas externalizing symptoms (e.g., aggressive and impulsive
behavior) are expected to be related to greater left asymmetry. The directional
hypothesis has been supported by some studies (e.g., Gatzke-Kopp, Jetha, &
Segalowitz, 2014; Jones, Field, Davalos, & Pickens, 1997b; Pössel, Lo, Fritz, &
Seemann, 2008; Smith & Bell, 2010), whereas other studies have observed an
opposite pattern of EEG activation (Baving, Laucht, & Schmidt, 2002; Santesso,
Reker, Schmidt, & Segalowitz, 2006) or no direct associations between EEG and
these outcomes (Fox, Schmidt, Calkins, Rubin, & Coplan, 1996; Theall-Honey &
Schmidt, 2006).
In the present study we used meta-analysis to test a) the consistency of the
association between having experienced psychosocial risk and frontal cortical EEG
asymmetry and b) the effect sizes of the associations between frontal EEG asymmetry
and internalizing and externalizing behavior outcomes. The first hypothesis was that
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
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higher psychosocial risk including parental depression would be related to greater
relative right frontal EEG asymmetry as compared to lower psychosocial risk. We
incorporated data on all potential psychosocial risk factors and compared the effects
of parental depression to those of other risk factors to obtain a more comprehensive
picture of the range of psychosocial influences on children’s EEG asymmetry.
Second, we tested the hypotheses stemming from the motivational direction model
(Harmon-Jones et al., 2010) that internalizing behavior outcomes are associated with
greater relative right, and externalizing behavior outcomes with greater relative left
EEG asymmetry. In addition to computing the combined effect sizes for the three sets
of meta-analyses (i.e., psychosocial risk, internalizing, and externalizing), we ran
moderator analyses to investigate whether effect size variations across studies are
associated with sample characteristics or procedural differences between studies. In
all meta-analyses, we tested the effects of participant age, gender, socioeconomic
status (SES), and resting EEG recording duration (to test whether shorter recording
durations are associated with larger effects, as in the meta-analysis of adult data by
Thibodeau et al., 2006). Additional moderator analyses tested the effects of different
types of psychosocial risk, different ways to assess psychosocial risks and child
outcomes (i.e., diagnosed vs. self-reported parental depression measures and observed
vs. reported child behavior), and the time lag between EEG recording and assessment
of internalizing or externalizing.
Methods
Literature search
Figure 1 outlines the study selection process. To obtain data for the meta-
analyses, we started with using PsycINFO and Google Scholar to search all empirical
journal articles in the English language available by August 15th, 2013, with the key
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
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words EEG or electroencephalogra*, and asymmetr* in the title or abstract (the
asterisk indicating that the search contained the word or word fragment). We limited
the search results to studies including participants younger than 18 years old. This
search produced a total of 208 articles, the abstracts of which were screened. Studies
were excluded if they did not report data on resting frontal alpha band EEG activity,
for example if a) EEG asymmetry was reported only in response to a discrete stimulus
or event, b) asymmetry scores or differences in alpha power in the left and right
hemisphere were absent, or c) only non-frontal (e.g., parietal) asymmetry data was
reported. Articles were also excluded if they did not provide data on associations
between EEG asymmetry and psychosocial risk factors or on outcomes that could be
defined in terms of internalizing or externalizing behavior.
The majority of studies including data on psychosocial risk factors
investigated the association between maternal depression and children’s EEG
asymmetry. In Bruder, Tenke, Warner, and Weisman (2007), it was not specified
which parent was affected and, therefore, children in the high risk group of this study
had at least one parent (mother, father, or both) and at least one grandparent with a
diagnosis of major depressive disorder. For the present meta-analysis, studies
investigating more severe forms of psychosocial adversity such as childhood
maltreatment (Curtis & Cicchetti, 2007; Miskovic et al., 2009) or institutionalization
(McLaughlin et al., 2011) were also included, as well as two studies on the
associations between child frontal EEG asymmetry and maternal caregiving
insensitivity (Hane & Fox, 2006), and parental alcohol dependence (Ehlers et al.,
2001). Studies contributing to the analyses of internalizing behaviors consisted of
outcomes related to anxiety, fearfulness, depressiveness, social withdrawal, and
shyness reported by the parent or the child, or observations of facial signs of fear or
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
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inhibited behavior in novel or ambiguous contexts. The outcomes in the set of studies
on externalizing behaviors included symptoms of aggression and oppositional
defiance, which were in all cases reported by the caregiver (or teacher; Gatzke-Kopp
et al., 2014). Whenever an article reported effects separately for female and male
participants, these were considered as separate outcomes. Studies that included data
on negative affect expressions that could not be clearly defined in terms of approach
or withdrawal motivation were excluded from the internalizing and externalizing
analyses. This resulted in the exclusion of studies investigating relations between
EEG asymmetry and crying in response to maternal separation (Davidson & Fox,
1989), sad facial expressions (Jones, Field, Fox, Lundy, & Davalos, 1997a), or more
global indices of negative emotionality (Dawson et al., 1999; Jones, McFall, & Diego,
2004; Shankman et al., 2011).
In the next step, articles were checked for partly overlapping samples and in
such cases, the article with the largest sample size was selected. This ensured that no
participants were included twice in the same meta-analysis. From the longitudinal
temperament study conducted by Fox and colleagues, we selected Henderson, Fox,
and Rubin (2001) to represent the internalizing data and Hane, Henderson, Reeb-
Sutherland, and Fox (2010) to represent the externalizing data from this project.
Although these publications do not report on the largest sample sizes in the context of
this project (Degnan et al., 2011), they were considered most representative/adequate
in terms of sample size, time between EEG measurement and outcome, and the
availability of sufficient statistical information for effect size calculations. From the
Mannheim Study of Risk Children, we selected the 8-year assessments (Baving,
Laucht, & Schmidt, 2000; Baving et al., 2002) as these represent the midpoint of a
longitudinal study from 4.5 to 11 years. After these steps, we identified 38 empirical
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
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papers with 50 pertinent effect sizes, providing data for three sets of meta-analyses on
psychosocial risk factors (k = 20, N = 1,291), internalizing (k = 20, N = 1,299), and
externalizing (k = 10, N = 810) child behavior.
--------------------
Figure 1 here
--------------------
Moderators
Socioeconomic status (SES; low vs. middle/high) was coded as a categorical
moderator for all analyses. For the set of articles contributing to the psychosocial risk
analyses, we also coded risk type (parental depression vs. other adversity) and for the
studies measuring parental depression, the type of depression assessment (diagnosis
vs. self-report). For the associations with internalizing and externalizing behavior,
additional categorical moderators were the temporal relationship between EEG
recording and the outcome assessment (concurrent vs. predictive), and outcome
assessment type (observed vs. reported behavior). Moderator subgroups with k < 4
were excluded from the categorical contrast analyses. Continuous moderators
included age at the time of EEG measurement, age at the time of outcome assessment,
gender (% of male participants), time lag (in years) between EEG recording and
outcome assessment, and resting EEG recording duration. In cases where EEG was
recorded twice (e.g., Smith & Bell, 2010), the data were averaged across the two
assessments, as was age at the two assessment points. To assess intercoder reliability,
11 of the studies were coded by an independent coder. The agreement between the
coders across the categorical moderator variables was 98% (κs > .86) and correlations
between the continuous moderators were > .97.
Meta-analytic procedures
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The meta-analyses were performed using the Comprehensive Meta-Analysis
(CMA) program (Borenstein, Rothstein, & Cohen, 2005). For each study, an effect
size (Cohen’s d) was calculated as the standardized difference between high and low
psychosocial risk conditions or between high and low manifestations of child
internalizing or externalizing behavior in resting frontal EEG asymmetry values. For
studies reporting correlational data, these were recomputed into Cohen’s d. Except for
Curtis and Cicchetti (2007) who reported the pertinent data from electrodes F7/8, and
Gatzke-Kopp et al. (2014) who reported data only from electrodes AF3/4, the effect
size calculations were based on data reported from mid-frontal electrodes F3 and F4.
For the analyses of psychosocial risk and internalizing problems, effects of greater
relative right-sided asymmetry were given a positive sign as they were in accordance
with our hypotheses. As externalizing behavior was hypothesized to be associated
with greater relative left-sided asymmetry, studies reporting effects of a greater
relative right-sided asymmetry associated with externalizing behavior were given a
negative sign (recall that due to the inverse relationship between alpha power and
neural activity, right-sided asymmetry indicates lower alpha power/greater neural
activity on the right frontal electrode sites).
CMA was used to compute combined effect sizes (weighted by the sample
sizes within individual studies) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) around the point
estimates for the three separate sets of effects. Significance tests and moderator
analyses were performed with the Q-statistic on the basis of random-effects models
(Borenstein et al., 2005). Random-effects were favored over fixed-effects models as
they allow for the possibility that there are random differences between studies that
are associated with variations in procedures, measures, settings, that go beyond
subject-level sampling error and thus point to different study populations (Lipsey &
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
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Wilson, 2001). In case of statistically significant combined effect sizes, the robustness
of these effects was estimated with the fail-safe number provided by the CMA
program, which estimates the number of studies with null results that would be
needed to reduce the overall significant result to non-significance. The Q-statistic was
also used to assess the heterogeneity of the effect sizes across studies. Meta-regression
was used to test the influence of continuous moderators. For each set of effect sizes,
Fisher’s Z scores were computed as equivalents for the effect size d, and the Z scores
were then standardized to screen for potential outliers. No outliers (standardized Z
scores ±3.29; Tabachnick & Fidell, 2001) were observed in the total set of studies or
the three separate sets.
To calculate the effect of potential data censoring or publication bias on the
significant outcomes of the meta-analyses, we used the trim-and-fill method. A funnel
plot was constructed of each study’s effect size on the x-axis against the inverse of the
standard error on the y-axis. The plot is expected to have the shape of a funnel
because studies with smaller sample sizes and larger standard errors have increasingly
large variation in estimates of their effect sizes as random variation becomes
increasingly influential, whereas studies with larger sample sizes have smaller
variation in effect sizes, making the top portion of the plot narrower (Duval &
Tweedie, 2000; A. J. Sutton, Duval, Tweedie, Abrams, & Jones, 2000). The plots
would be expected to be shaped like a funnel if no data censoring is present. However,
since smaller non-significant studies are less likely to be published, studies in the
bottom left hand corner of the plot are often omitted. With the trim-and-fill procedure,
the k right most studies considered to be symmetrically unmatched are trimmed and
their missing counterparts are imputed or ‘filled’ as mirror images of the trimmed
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
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outcomes. This leads to a new estimate of the combined effect size taking into account
potential publication bias.
Finally, in case of statistically significant combined effect sizes, we performed
a power analysis with the G*Power 3.1 program (Faul, Erdfelder, Lang, & Buchner,
2007). First, we calculated the sample size required for an individual study to reach
the combined effect size (i.e., the assumed population effect size) with a power of
0.80 and a one-sided significance level of 0.05. Second, the actual power values of the
individual studies were calculated to estimate the range of power of the included
studies to detect the combined effect size.
Results
The combined effect sizes for the three sets of analyses and the primary categorical
moderator contrasts are displayed in Table 1. Tables 2 4 list the studies contributing
to the meta-analyses with descriptive data and forest plots representing the individual
effect sizes.
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Table 1 here
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Psychosocial risk
Within the set of studies on the associations between psychosocial risk factors
and EEG asymmetry, a significant combined effect size was observed (d = 0.36, CI
0.15 0.58, p < .01), indicating that the presence of psychosocial risk factors is
associated with greater relative right-sided frontal EEG asymmetry. The set of
outcomes was heterogeneous. The trim-and-fill method showed that one study had to
be trimmed and filled, while the resulting combined effect size remained basically
similar (d = 0.32, CI 0.09 0.54). The fail-safe number was 168, indicating a robust
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
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effect. As can be observed from Table 1, the effect was of comparable magnitude
between different types of risk (i.e., parental depression vs. maltreatment or
institutionalization) and between different levels of SES. Within the set of depression
studies (k = 14), no difference in the magnitude of effects was observed between the
two types of depression assessment (diagnosis: k = 9, d = 0.35, CI 0.03 0.66; self-
report: k = 5, d = 0.54, CI 0.14 0.95; Q [1] = 0.56, p = .45).
The power analysis indicated that a sample size of N = 194 would be required
for an individual study to detect the combined effect size of d = 0.36 with a power of
0.80. The power values of the included studies to detect the combined effect size
ranged from 0.21 for the study with the smallest sample size (Field, Pickens, Fox,
Gonzalez, & Nawrocki, 1998) to 0.67 for the study with the largest sample size
(Ehlers et al., 2001), with the median power of the included studies being 0.39.
Meta-regression analyses with the continuous moderators revealed that the
effects were significantly moderated by gender but not age or resting EEG recording
duration (both ps > .10). Gender (the percentage of males in each sample) yielded a
significant negative regression weight (slope = -0.01, p = .04), indicating that studies
with a larger percentage of females in the sample were associated with larger effects.
When the continuous moderators were tested separately within the set of depression
studies (k = 14), age emerged as a significant moderator (slope = -0.05, p = .02), with
larger effect sizes in younger samples, while the effects of gender (p = .44) and
recording duration (p = .68) were not significant.
--------------------
Table 2 here
--------------------
Internalizing
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The combined effect size (d = 0.19, CI -0.03 0.41, p = .08) for the
internalizing set was not significant. The set of studies was heterogeneous. Effect
sizes were not associated with SES, EEG-outcome time lag (i.e., concurrent vs.
predictive), or assessment type (observed vs. reported). Again, larger effects were
observed in samples with higher percentages of females (slope = -0.01, p = .02). The
associations between EEG asymmetry and internalizing behaviors were unrelated to
age at the time of EEG recording or outcome assessment, time lag between EEG
recording and outcome assessment, or resting EEG recording duration, all ps > .52.
--------------------
Table 3 here
--------------------
Externalizing
The combined effect size (d = 0.04, CI -0.27 0.35, p = .79) in a
heterogeneous set of outcomes provided no support for the hypothesis that frontal
EEG asymmetry would be related to externalizing behaviors in children. While no
associations between effect sizes were observed with all other categorical or
continuous moderators, gender was significantly associated with the magnitude of
effects (slope = 0.02, p < .001), but in the opposite direction as was the case in the
analyses of psychosocial risk and internalizing behavior. That is, stronger associations
between left-sided EEG asymmetry and externalizing behaviors were observed in
samples including relatively greater numbers of males.
--------------------
Table 4 here
--------------------
Discussion
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
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The present meta-analytic study was designed to test whether the extent and direction
of frontal EEG asymmetry is consistently associated with a) having experienced
psychosocial risk and b) internalizing and externalizing behavior outcomes in studies
of children ranging from newborns to adolescents. The results showed that the
presence of psychosocial risk factors is significantly associated with greater relative
right frontal EEG asymmetry, with a combined effect size of d = 0.36. While this
association was of comparable magnitude between studies investigating parental
depression and child maltreatment, the effects appeared to be larger in samples with a
larger percentage of girls. Frontal EEG asymmetry showed a considerably weaker and
non-significant relation to internalizing symptoms (d = 0.19) and no significant
association with externalizing symptoms (d = 0.04).
The meta-analysis on studies of infants and children exposed to different kinds
of psychosocial risk supports the view of greater relative right frontal asymmetry as a
relatively consistent indicator of the exposure to familial stressors in children. While
the association appeared quite robust and no signs of a systematic publication bias
were observed, the studies included in the analyses of psychosocial risk were largely
underpowered, which may have increased the risk of false positive findings. The
effects of psychosocial risk were moderated by gender in that samples with a larger
percentage of girls were associated with larger effects, indicating that girls were more
susceptible (i.e., showed more right frontal asymmetry) to the presence of
psychosocial risk. The effect was however not significant when tested only within the
depression studies, and it appears to have been driven in the full set of studies by the
large effect observed in the female-only study by Miskovic et al. (2009): after leaving
out this study in an additional meta-regression, the effect was no longer significant (p
> .23). Inspection of the two child maltreatment studies (Curtis & Cicchetti, 2007;
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
17
Miskovic et al., 2009) does not provide an obvious answer as to why the two effect
sizes from maltreated female participants were highly different in magnitude. Among
the potential factors could be some of the sample-related variation between these
studies, such as different ways of documenting maltreatment history (official records
vs. self-report), age, SES, and ethnicity (predominantly African American in Curtis &
Cicchetti, 2007; no information on ethnicity was provided by Miskovic et al., 2009).
Nevertheless, the finding of potentially greater susceptibility of girls merits further
investigation as it appears to argue against findings from other developmental
domains indicating boys’ greater vulnerability to adverse experiences (Ramchandani,
Stein, Evans, & O'Connor, 2005; Sharp et al., 1995).
In addition, although observed only within studies having parental depression
as the risk factor, the moderation of the effect sizes by age is interesting as it seems to
indicate that the association between parental depression and right frontal asymmetry
may attenuate with extended exposure to parental depression (i.e., older age). In
infants, on the other hand, large effects were observed even in neonates with
obviously minimal experience of interaction with a depressed caregiver. As the
number of studies including older children is very limited, more research
documenting the effects across various age groups is needed before conclusions about
potential age differences in frontal asymmetry in response to parental depression and
other psychosocial risk factors can be made.
Apart from the common conceptualization of children’s frontal asymmetry as
a marker of vulnerability to later psychopathology, Saby and Marshall (2012) pointed
out that our understanding of the ontogenetic origins of frontal asymmetry variations
remains limited and a developmental model of EEG asymmetry has not been
constructed. The large effects observed in newborn infants and the concordance in
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
18
patterns of EEG asymmetry between newborns and their mothers (Field et al., 2004)
could be taken to indicate a genetic transmission. Field and colleagues have
suggested, however, that the neonatal effects may also emerge through intrauterine
exposure to a depressed mother’s biochemical imbalance affecting the levels of
cortisol and serotonin, which may have consequences on fetal brain development
(Field & Diego, 2008; Field, Diego, Dieter et al., 2004). Furthermore, the influence of
natural variations in maternal caregiving quality on children’s frontal EEG asymmetry
in low-risk samples (Hane & Fox, 2006; Hane et al., 2010) provide support for the
role of early interpersonal experiences with caregivers in shaping the pattern of frontal
cortical asymmetries. There is clearly a need for more research investigating the
malleability of children’s frontal asymmetry in response to changes in the social
environment, e.g., with intervention designs targeting parental caregiving behaviors.
The functional significance of variations in children’s frontal EEG asymmetry
is best understood by investigating its associations with emotional and behavioral
outcomes. In the present meta-analyses, however, the hypotheses derived from the
motivational approach/withdrawal models (Davidson, 1992; Harmon-Jones et al.,
2010) linking greater right frontal asymmetry to a greater risk of internalizing
symptoms and greater left frontal asymmetry to externalizing symptoms were not
supported. In the set of externalizing studies, in particular, the effects were rather
evenly distributed into positive, negative, and null effects, yielding a combined effect
size close to zero. The association between right frontal asymmetry and internalizing
behavior was stronger but not statistically significant. The effect sizes were also not
significantly dependent on the time lag between the EEG recording and internalizing
assessment, or assessment type (observed vs. reported). The behavioral outcome
effects were moderated by gender in directions that correspond to the higher rates of
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
19
internalizing symptoms in girls (Sterba, Prinstein, & Cox, 2007) and externalizing
symptoms in boys (Alink et al., 2006). Stronger associations between right frontal
asymmetry and internalizing symptoms were thus observed in samples with larger
percentage of girls and, conversely, left frontal asymmetry was more strongly related
to externalizing symptoms in samples with larger percentage of boys.
One reason for the lack of direct associations between frontal asymmetry and
the outcomes may be the relatively imprecise nature of the outcome measures
employed in many of the studies. For example, the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL;
Achenbach & Rescorla, 2000) internalizing scale that was used in seven studies
included in the set of internalizing studies consists of separate subscales assessing
emotional reactivity, anxiety/depression, somatic complaints, and withdrawal. It is
possible that these subdomains of internalization are differentially associated with
withdrawal motivation and right frontal asymmetry, and the link between asymmetry
and internalizing may be attenuated when using the global internalizing scale. Indeed,
Shankman et al. (2013) recently showed that in adults, reductions in left frontal
asymmetry were uniquely associated with depression but not panic disorder, likely
reflecting a more tonic withdrawal motivation or reduced reward sensitivity
associated with depression vs. anxiety. In a similar vein, future studies with children
should be more detailed as to which specific facets of internalizing symptomatology
the patterns of frontal asymmetry are associated with (e.g., depression, anxiety, or
observed withdrawal behavior). Regarding externalizing symptoms, one yet
unexplored avenue for testing the contribution of left frontal asymmetry to
externalizing could be to investigate differences in frontal asymmetry in children who
manifest antisocial behavior but differ in the presence or absence of callous-
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
20
unemotional traits, as the aggression of children high in callous-unemotional traits
tends to be more proactive in nature (Frick & Viding, 2009).
In all three meta-analyses, SES was not a significant moderator of the effects.
The lack of moderation in the psychosocial risk studies therefore does not support the
hypothesis of Lusby et al. (2014) who argued that the fairly large effects observed in
many previous studies of infants of depressed mothers (e.g., Diego et al., 2006; Field
et al., 1995; Jones et al., 1998) may at least partly reflect the influence of other
stressors associated with the low socioeconomic status of the families in these studies.
It is also potentially important to point out that the analytical procedures of
EEG data in many studies included in these meta-analyses were not always optimal.
For example, whole-head EEG was measured in many studies with rather small
number of electrodes but nevertheless referenced offline to an average reference
configuration, which may be associated with biased estimation of the underlying
sources of electrical activity due to inadequate spatial sampling of electrodes (cf. Keil
et al., 2014). Given the often poorer signal-to-noise ratio in the EEG of infants and
small children, computation of the average reference from a low number of electrodes
may be a greater issue of concern in children than adults. To date, no studies have
reported EEG asymmetry from young children with high-density electrode montages
which provide a more complete coverage of the scalp and thereby also diminish the
risk of biases in the average reference computation apparent with a low number of
electrodes (e.g., variation in impedance and signal quality, or differences in scalp
location between homologous electrodes).
Finally, resonating the currently active discussion on power issues and
replicability in psychological and neuroimaging research (Bakker, van Dijk, &
Wicherts, 2012; Button et al., 2013), it may be a cause of concern that many of the
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
21
studies contributing to the combined effect size of psychosocial risk were highly
underpowered, with the median power of the included studies being 0.39. While the
median power exceeds the estimated typical power of 0.35 in psychology (Bakker et
al., 2012) and 0.21 in neuroscience studies (Button et al., 2013), it is nevertheless
considerably lower than the ideal threshold of 0.80. Not only do small sample sizes
decrease the possibility of detecting true effects, but, more worryingly, they may
inflate the estimated effect size of the observed group differences, leading to an
increasing likelihood of false positive findings. The problems associated with low
power become even more pressing when additional factors (e.g., gender) are included
in the statistical tests. Therefore, to be able to estimate the true effect sizes for the
influence of psychosocial risk on frontal asymmetry and the associations between
frontal asymmetry, internalizing, and externalizing, studies with larger sample sizes
(possibly through consortia integrating data from multiple sites) are needed.
Taken together, the present meta-analyses showed that while the pattern of
greater relative right frontal asymmetry is a fairly consistent marker of the presence of
familial stressors in children, the power of frontal asymmetry to directly predict
internalizing and externalizing behaviors is modest. The functional role of frontal
asymmetry in internalizing and externalizing may be more subtle and better
understood as a moderator of the influence of the environment or child dispositions on
behavioral outcomes. Indeed, studies taking such approach have indicated, for
example, that greater relative left frontal asymmetry may mitigate the influence of
maternal depression on children’s internalizing symptoms (Lopez-Duran, Nusslock,
George, & Kovacs, 2012) and greater relative right frontal asymmetry may exacerbate
the influence of inhibited temperamental disposition on later internalizing problems
(Fox et al., 1996). Frontal asymmetry thus appears to foster children’s tendencies to
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
22
approach or withdraw, but the relation of these tendencies to emotional and behavioral
outcomes may be critically dependent on the affective features of the environment or
the children themselves. Important challenges for future studies include investigating
the malleability of children’s frontal asymmetry in response to changes in parental
caregiving behaviors and associating patterns of frontal asymmetry to behavioral
outcomes more closely associated with motivational tendencies to approach and
withdraw.
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
23
Notes
MJP was supported by a postdoctoral research fellowship from the Institute for
Advanced Social Research, University of Tampere. MJB-K and MHvIJ were
supported by awards from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
(MJB-K: VICI grant no. 453-09-003; MHvIJ: SPINOZA prize).
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
24
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*Theall-Honey, L. A., & Schmidt, L. A. (2006). Do temperamentally shy children
process emotion differently than nonshy children? Behavioral,
psychophysiological, and gender differences in reticent preschoolers.
Developmental Psychobiology, 48(3), 187-196. doi:10.1002/dev.20133
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
36
Thibodeau, R., Jorgensen, R. S., & Kim, S. (2006). Depression, anxiety, and resting
frontal EEG asymmetry: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Abnormal
Psychology, 115(4), 715-729. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.115.4.715
Tomarken, A. J., Davidson, R. J., Wheeler, R. E., & Doss, R. C. (1992). Individual
differences in anterior brain asymmetry and fundamental dimensions of emotion.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62(4), 676-687.
doi:10.1037/0022-3514.62.4.676
*Tomarken, A. J., Dichter, G. S., Garber, J., & Simien, C. (2004). Resting frontal
brain activity: Linkages to maternal depression and socio-economic status among
adolescents. Biological Psychology, 67(1-2), 77-102.
doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2004.03.011
Verona, E., Sadeh, N., & Curtin, J. J. (2009). Stress-induced asymmetric frontal brain
activity and aggression risk. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 118(1), 131-145.
doi:10.1037/a0014376; 10.1037/a0014376
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
37
Table 1. Combined effect sizes and categorical moderators
k
N
d
95% CI
Q-Ba
Psychosocial risk
Total
20
1291
0.36**
0.15 0.58
SES
0.16
Low
12
704
0.32*
0.03 0.62
Middle/high
8
587
0.42*
0.07 0.76
Risk type
0.44
Depression
14
872
0.42**
0.14 0.69
Maltreatment/ institution
4
224
0.22
-0.30 0.73
Insensitive parenting
1
59
0.61*
0.08 1.13
Alcohol dependence
1
136
0.00
-0.38 0.38
Internalizing
Total
20
1299
0.19
-0.03 0.41
SES
0.07
Low
6
518
0.24
-0.16 0.65
Middle/high
14
781
0.17
-0.10 0.45
EEG/outcome time lag
1.59
Concurrent
13
869
0.08
-0.19 0.35
Predictive
6
314
0.39
-0.01 0.79
Outcome first
1
116
0.46*
0.04 0.88
Outcome assessment type
0.44
Observed
4
259
0.35
-0.16 0.86
Reported
16
1040
0.16
-0.09 0.41
Externalizing
Total
10
810
0.04
-0.27 0.35
SES
0.10
Low
5
479
-0.01
-0.48 0.46
Middle/high
5
331
0.09
-0.39 0.57
EEG/outcome time lag
Concurrent
8
711
0.02
-0.35 0.38
Predictive
2
99
0.16
-0.62 0.94
*p < .05, **p < .01
k = number of study outcomes, N = total sample size, d = effect size (Cohen’s d), 95% CI = 95%
confidence interval around the point estimate of the effect size, Q-W = a statistic testing for the
homogeneity within a set of studies, Q-B = a moderation statistic testing for the significance of the
contrast between different sets of studies.
aSubgroups with k < 4 excluded from contrast. Note: Outcome assessment type contrast not shown for
the externalizing set because none of the studies in this set provided data on observational measures of
externalizing.
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
38
Table 2. Effect sizes and descriptive statistics for the set of psychosocial risk studies. The forest plot represents the individual effect sizes
(Cohen’s d with 95% confidence interval).
Study
d
p
N
Age
Bruder 2007
-0.81
.02
35
13.20
Curtis 2007 (females)
0.00
1.00
43
10.30
Curtis 2007 (males)
-0.63
.04
44
10.30
Dawson 1992
0.00
1.00
27
1.18
Dawson 1997
0.54
.00
117
1.15
Diego 2006
1.12
.00
66
0.18
Ehlers 2001
0.00
1.00
136
10.50
Field 1995
0.74
.04
32
0.40
Field 1998
-0.75
.08
24
0.30
Field 2004
0.62
.00
119
0.01
Hane 2006
0.61
.02
59
0.75
Jones 1997a
0.63
.05
41
0.08
Jones 1998
0.86
.00
58
0.02
Jones 2001
0.78
.02
38
0.84
Lopez-Duran 2012
0.19
.30
135
7.65
McLaughlin 2011
0.24
.41
76
3.50
Miskovic 2009
1.22
.00
61
14.24
Tomarken 2004
0.59
.09
38
13.00
Jones 2004
0.63
.01
78
0.16
Lusby 2014
0.22
.39
64
0.38
Total
0.36
.00
1291
4.41
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
39
Table 3. Effect sizes and descriptive statistics for the set of internalizing studies. The forest plot represents the individual effect sizes (Cohen’s d
with 95% confidence interval).
Study
d
p
N
Age
Ehlers 2001
0.00
1.00
136
10.50
Lopez-Duran 2012
-0.18
.30
135
7.65
McLaughlin 2011
0.48
.05
76
4.50
Baving 2002 (females)
0.81
.01
47
8.00
Baving 2002 (males)
-1.05
.01
35
8.00
Buss 2003
-0.20
.58
31
0.50
Forbes 2006
-0.50
.04
74
5.08
Fox 1996
0.00
1.00
96
4.56
Gatzke-Kopp 2014
0.24
.09
209
6.03
Hannesdóttir 2006
-0.90
.14
16
4.50
Hayden 2008
0.20
.66
22
6.16
Henderson 2001
0.24
.25
97
0.75
Jones 1997b
1.81
.02
15
3.00
Kentgen 2000
0.16
.74
18
15.50
Pössel 2008
0.90
.00
80
13.92
Schmidt 2008
1.46
.00
20
0.75
Schmidt 1999
0.28
.57
17
7.00
Smith 2010
0.70
.14
23
1.42
Theall-Honey 2006
0.00
1.00
36
4.50
McManis 2002
0.46
.03
116
11.00
Total
0.19
.08
1299
6.17
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
40
Table 4. Effect sizes and descriptive statistics for the set of externalizing studies. The forest plot represents the individual effect sizes (Cohen’s d
with 95% confidence interval).
Study
d
p
N
Age
Ehlers 2001
0.00
1.00
136
10.50
Hane 2010
0.03
.89
98
3.00
McLaughlin 2011
-0.13
.59
76
4.50
Baving 2000 (females)
-1.21
.00
33
8
Baving 2000 (males)
0.92
.03
25
8
Forbes 2006
0.77
.00
74
5.08
Fox 1996
0.00
1.00
96
4.56
Gatzke-Kopp 2014
0.28
.04
209
6.03
Santesso 2006
-0.98
.01
40
10.10
Smith 2010
0.63
.18
23
1.42
Total
0.04
.79
810
6.12
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
41
Figure Captions
Figure 1. A flow chart of the study selection process.
META-ANALYSES OF CHILDREN’S EEG ASYMMETRY
42
Figure 1.
Database and online key word search
Articles screened on basis of title and
abstract for inclusion criteria:
Resting frontal alpha asymmetry
Data on psychosocial risk or
internalizing/externalizing
outcomes
N = 140 articles excluded
Articles screened for duplicate samples
N = 208 articles found
N = 30 articles excluded
N = 38 articles included in the meta-
analyses:
Psychosocial risk: N = 19, k = 20
Internalizing: N = 19, k = 20
Externalizing: N = 9, k = 10
... Notably, childhood adversity has been associated with individual differences in FAA in children and adolescents (McLaughlin et al., 2011;Peltola et al., 2014), but to our knowledge, there is no work investigating the impact of early adversity on FAA measured in adulthood. A recent meta-analysis indicated that childhood adversity (defined broadly to include experiences such as maternal depression and childhood maltreatment) was associated with greater resting right FAA in children with an effect size of d = 0.036 (p < 0.01), indicating a tendency for withdrawal motivation (Peltola et al., 2014). ...
... Notably, childhood adversity has been associated with individual differences in FAA in children and adolescents (McLaughlin et al., 2011;Peltola et al., 2014), but to our knowledge, there is no work investigating the impact of early adversity on FAA measured in adulthood. A recent meta-analysis indicated that childhood adversity (defined broadly to include experiences such as maternal depression and childhood maltreatment) was associated with greater resting right FAA in children with an effect size of d = 0.036 (p < 0.01), indicating a tendency for withdrawal motivation (Peltola et al., 2014). Some work also documents the consistency of this effect over time. ...
... However, the direction of FAA differs from previous results measuring the impact of adversity on child FAA. Specifically, Peltola et al., (2014) found an association between childhood adversity and greater right FAA (withdrawal) in a meta-analysis of 20 studies. It is possible the different direction of FAA in the current sample reflects developmental changes in FAA from childhood into adulthood (McLaughlin et al., 2011). ...
Article
Full-text available
Intimate partner violence (IPV) among parents impacts their child’s development both directly through exposure to violence and indirectly through disruptions in parenting. In particular, use of IPV may affect how fathers respond to infant crying, including at a neurophysiological level. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether use of IPV behavior is associated with differences in fathers’ neural response to infant’s cries. Frontal electroencephalogram (EEG) asymmetry, as an index of motivational tendencies, was assessed in 25 fathers who used IPV in the last 12 months and 19 fathers with no history of IPV in response to videos of an infant crying, white noise as an aversive control stimulus, and a baseline (no stimulus) condition. Across all conditions, fathers with and without IPV history evidenced greater left frontal alpha asymmetry (FAA), consistent with greater approach motivation. Relative to baseline, infant cries elicited a decrease in left FAA in both groups, whereas white noise elicited different responses between fathers with and without IPV histories, namely less change in FAA from baseline in fathers who used IPV. This suggests similar shifts in motivational intensity in fathers in response to infant cries, but not white noise. Across the sample, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) were positively associated with FAA response to white noise. Together these results reveal neural differences between fathers with and without IPV histories, potentially linked to experiences of childhood adversity.
... According to the motivational direction model, left frontal EEG asymmetry is associated with approach motivational tendencies, whereas right frontal EEG asymmetry is associated with withdrawal motivational tendencies. Researchers report that left frontal EEG asymmetry is associated with approach-related traits and behaviors, such as anger/frustration and impulsivity, and increases the risk for externalizing problems, whereas right frontal EEG asymmetry has been related to withdrawal-related traits and behaviors, such as shyness and internalizing problems (Peltola et al., 2014;Poole, Santesso, Van Lieshout, & Schmidt, 2019). ...
... In addition to directly linking to temperamental traits and behavioral outcomes, frontal EEG asymmetry may perform as a moderator of the influence of environment on child outcomes (Peltola et al., 2014;Reznik & Allen, 2018). In support, previous studies have demonstrated the moderating effect of frontal EEG asymmetry between maternal behaviors and infants' temperament (Diaz et al., 2019;Swingler, Perry, Calkins, & Bell, 2014). ...
Article
This study used latent growth curve modeling to identify normative development and individual differences in the developmental patterns of shyness and anger/frustration across childhood. This study also examined the impacts of maternal intrusiveness and frontal electroencephalogram (EEG) asymmetry at age 4 on the developmental patterns of shyness and anger/frustration. 180 children (92 boys, 88 girls; Mage = 4.07 years at baseline; 75.6% White, 18.3% Black, 6.1% multiracial/other) participated in the study. Normative development included significant linear decreases in shyness and anger/frustration. Individual variation existed in the developmental patterns. Children with left frontal EEG asymmetry showed a faster decreasing pattern of shyness. Children who experienced higher maternal intrusiveness and had left frontal EEG asymmetry showed a slower decreasing pattern of anger/frustration.
... Internalizing scores in the screening questionnaire were not considered for recruitment into either the high-risk or low-risk groups, but were similarly distributed (skew = 1.30, kurtosis = 1.47) and captured a wide range of severity (M = 9.28, SD = 4.62; range 5-27 out of a possible 30). The broad range of both internalizing and externalizing symptom severity in this sample is well-suited to the current investigation as both internalizing and externalizing problems have been associated with both EEG asymmetry and ERN amplitude (Olvet & Hajcak, 2008;Peltola et al., 2014;Stieben et al., 2007). As such, the wide variance in psychological symptoms should ensure substantial variance in these psychophysiological markers. ...
... The majority of previous studies examining EEG asymmetry and ERN amplitude have used typically developing community participants (Begnoche et al., 2016), or oversample for anxious or internalizing tendencies (Harrewijn et al., 2019;Lo et al., 2015). Given the extensive literature relating symptoms of externalizing and internalizing psychopathology to constructions of motivational disposition (Bijttebier et al., 2009;Colder & O'Connor, 2004;Corr, 2002a), EEG asymmetry (Hannesdóttir et al., 2010;Peltola et al., 2014;Santesso et al., 2006), and ERN amplitude (Hall et al., 2007;Meyer, 2017;Stieben et al., 2007), the current sample maximized the variance in these domains, presumably facilitating the detection of associations among these variables. That said, it is possible that the associations among these variables are more complicated than can be examined here. ...
Article
Resting frontal EEG alpha asymmetry has been extensively examined as a marker of motivational disposition. Recent research has examined how this trait-level marker of motivation influences an individual’s internal error monitoring (indexed by the error-related negativity; ERN), with mixed findings as to whether more negative ERNs are associated with greater left or right alpha power. Data from 339 children who completed an incentivized Go/No-Go task annually from Kindergarten through 2nd grade were examined for an association between ERN amplitude and EEG asymmetry, and for whether the association was developmentally stable. Results indicate an association between left-dominant activation and a more negative amplitude in Kindergarten, with an inversion of this association emerging by 2nd grade, such that a more negative ERNs were associated with right-dominant activation. We suggest that the association between EEG asymmetry and ERN amplitude is likely modulated by task condition (e.g., incentivization) and experience over time (e.g., habituation).
... A meta-analysis of electroencephalograph (EEG) studies reported a link of depression to altered resting frontal asymmetry with a moderate effect (Thibodeau et al., 2006). The psychosocial risk, especially maternal depression, showed an association to greater right-sided resting frontal EEG asymmetry in children (Peltola et al., 2014). These findings indicate that the anomalous hemispheric asymmetry may be of great importance for clinical diagnosis and treatment of depression. ...
Article
Full-text available
Objective Disrupted brain functional asymmetry has been reported in major depressive disorder (MDD). The comorbidity may be a crucial factor to this functional asymmetry. It is quite common that gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms are comorbid with MDD, but limited evidence focuses on the effect of GI comorbidity on the neuropathology of MDD from a functional lateralization perspective. Methods Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging was obtained in 28 healthy controls (HCs), 35 MDD patients with GI symptoms (GI-MDD patients), and 17 patients with MDD without GI symptoms (nGI-MDD patients). The parameter of asymmetry (PAS) was used to analyze the imaging data and evaluate the changes of functional asymmetry. Results The GI-MDD patients showed increased PAS scores in the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and superior medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and decreased PAS scores in the right postcentral gyrus in comparison with nGI-MDD patients. The PAS scores of the left IFG and left superior MPFC were correlated with the severity of GI problems and could be applied to distinguish GI-MDD patients from nGI-MDD patients with an accuracy, a sensitivity, and a specificity of 92.31, 100, and 76.47%, respectively. Furthermore, GI-MDD and nGI-MDD patients both displayed increased PAS scores in the PCC/precuneus. Conclusions This study revealed the influence of concomitant GI symptoms on functional asymmetry in MDD patients. Increased PAS scores of the left IFG and superior MPFC might represent an unbalanced regulation of brain over GI function and had the potential to be regarded as distinctive features related to functional GI symptoms in MDD.
... Although the association between FAA and internalizing problems was found to be modest (d = .19) in healthy children (Peltola et al., 2014), no previous studies have examined the association between FAA and internalizing problems in children with ADHD. Additionally, the current study used a CSD analysis, which improved topographical localization and minimized volume conduction effects to provide a more precise measurement of FAA (Smith et al., 2017), particularly in the resting condition. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background Frontal alpha asymmetry (FAA) has been associated with the regulation of certain types of internalizing psychopathologies, and is affected by acute aerobic exercise (AE). However, no previous studies have examined the association between FAA and internalizing problems or the effects of acute exercise on FAA in children with ADHD. Aims This study had two objectives. First, it aimed to examine the relationship between FAA and internalizing behaviors in children with ADHD. Second, it sought to investigate the differential effects of acute AE (30 and 50 min) on FAA. Method Participants were assigned to one of the following three groups: 50 min of AE, 30 min of AE, and a control group. Resting electroencephalogram (EEG) data were recorded before and after their respective treatments. EEG data from 43 participants were analyzed to investigate the association between pre-test FAA and internalizing problems as assessed by Child Behavior Checklist scores. Additionally, EEG data from 46 participants were analyzed to examine the effects of acute AE on post-test FAA while controlling for pre-test FAA. Results Pre-test FAA was found to be significantly negatively associated with internalizing problems, with both hemispheres contributing to this association. Regarding the effects of acute exercise, the 50-minute AE group had highest post-test FAA, reflected by the increased relative left-side frontal activity. Conclusions These findings suggest that FAA is a biological marker of internalizing symptoms in children with ADHD, and a 50-minute session of AE can effectively modulate FAA.
... Electroencephalography (EEG) methods have blossomed over the last three decades as one of the most accessible techniques for psychologists and cognitive neuroscientists interested in infant brain functioning and development (Field et al., 2004;Mundy & Jarrold, 2010;Peltola et al., 2014). Although collecting EEG in infant populations poses real challenges, including task non-compliance, motion-related artifacts, and data attrition to name a few (Noreika et al., 2020), the benefits of this developmentally sensitive method far outweigh its relative disadvantages. ...
Article
Resting-state electroencephalography (EEG) provides developmental neuroscientists a non-invasive view into the neural underpinnings of cognition and emotion. Recently, the psychometric properties of two widely used neural measures in early childhood – frontal alpha asymmetry and delta-beta coupling – have come under scrutiny. Despite their growing use, additional work examining how the psychometric properties of these neural signatures may change across infancy is needed. The current study examined the developmental stability, split-half reliability, and construct validity of infant frontal alpha asymmetry and delta-beta coupling. Infants provided resting-state EEG data at 8, 12, and 18 months of age (N = 213). Frontal alpha asymmetry and delta-beta coupling showed significant developmental change from 8 to 18 months. Reliability for alpha asymmetry, and alpha, delta, and beta power, individually, was generally good. In contrast, the reliability of delta-beta coupling scores was poor. Associations between frontal alpha asymmetry and approach tendencies generally emerged, whereas stronger (over-coupled) delta-beta coupling scores were associated with profiles of dysregulation and low inhibition. However, the individual associations varied across time and specific measures of interest. We discuss these findings with a developmental lens, highlighting the importance of repeated measures to better understand links between neural signatures and typical and atypical development.
... Other studies have found that blunted reward positive during a monetary reward task heightens the effects of stress (Goldstein et al., 2020;Pegg et al., 2019) and a maternal history of depression on later depression in children. Multiple studies have also found that resting frontal asymmetry moderates effects of a parental history of depression on depressive symptoms in children (see Peltola et al., 2014). A blunted late positive potential to pleasant images also exacerbates effects of stress on depression in adolescent females (Levinson et al., 2019), while the ERN moderates effects of stress on anxiety symptoms 6 months later in emerging adults (Banica et al., 2020). ...
Article
Full-text available
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The Clinical Neuroscience of Lateralization gives the first comprehensive transdiagnostic overview of the evidence for changes in hemispheric asymmetries in different psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. Taking a multidisciplinary perspective informed by both basic science and clinical studies, the authors integrate recent breakthroughs on hemispheric asymmetries in psychology, neuroscience, genetics and comparative research. They give a general introduction to hemispheric asymmetries and the techniques used to assess them, and review the evidence for changes in hemispheric asymmetries in different psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. The book also discusses neurological disorders like Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis and highlights the importance of open science in clinical laterality research. Offering a fresh perspective on a longstanding issue in clinical neuroscience, this book will be of great interest for academics, researchers, and students in the fields of clinical and developmental neuroscience, biopsychology and neuropsychology. © 2021 Annakarina Mundorf and Sebastian Ocklenburg. All rights reserved.
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Electromagnetic data collected using electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) are of central importance for psychophysiological research. The scope of concepts, methods, and instruments used by EEG/MEG researchers has dramatically increased and is expected to further increase in the future. Building on existing guideline publications, the goal of the present paper is to contribute to the effective documentation and communication of such advances by providing updated guidelines for conducting and reporting EEG/MEG studies. The guidelines also include a checklist of key information recommended for inclusion in research reports on EEG/MEG measures.
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Electroencephalogram (EEG) patterns may reflect a vulnerability to depression. In an effort to understand their earliest origin, we examined their stability and consistency and their associations with perinatal depressive symptoms. Depressive symptoms were measured prospectively throughout the perinatal period in 83 women with histories of depression and/or anxiety. Infant's EEG was recorded during baseline, feeding, and play at 3 and 6 months of age. Prenatal and postpartum depressive symptoms interacted significantly to predict 3- and 6-month-olds' EEG asymmetry scores. Asymmetry scores were consistent across contexts, except from baseline to feeding and play at 6 months, and stable across ages, except during feeding. Changes in depressive symptoms across ages were not associated with changes in infant EEG. Findings highlight the importance of considering both prenatal and postpartum depressive symptoms in the prediction of infant EEG, as well as the need to consider context to understand stability of infant EEG patterns. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol.
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Resting anterior brain electrical activity, self-report measures of Behavioral Approach and Inhibition System (BAS and BIS) strength, and general levels of positive and negative affect (PA and NA) were collected from 46 unselected undergraduates on two separate occasions Electroencephalogram (EEG) measures of prefrontal asymmetry and the self-report measures showed excellent internal consistency reliability and adequate test-retest stability Aggregate measures across the two assessments were computed for all indices Subjects with greater relative left prefrontal activation reported higher levels of BAS strength, whereas those with greater relative right prefrontal activation reported higher levels of BIS strength Prefrontal EEG asymmetry accounted for more than 25% of the variance in the self-report measure of relative BAS-BIS strength Prefrontal EEG, however, was not significantly correlated with PA or NA, or the relative strength of PA versus NA Posterior asymmetry was unrelated to the self-report measures
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Davidson (1993) has proposed that hemispheric asymmetry in prefrontal as measured by electroencephalographic (EEG) power in the alpha (8-13Hz), is related to reactivity to affectively valenced stimuli. Davidson has proposed further that asymmetry is a stable trait, and that left frontal is a stable marker of vulnerability to depression. In Study 1, we Davidson's formulations by examining differences in frontal EEG alpha among currently depressed, previously depressed, and never subjects. As expected, currently and previously depressed subjects left frontal hypoactivation relative to never depressed controls, but did differ significantly from each other. In Study 2, we explored the associations among frontal EEG asymmetry, response to a negative mood induction endorsement of dysfunctional cognitions, and attentional processing of valenced stimuli. Contrary to predictions, frontal EEG asymmetry was to mood reactivity and cognitive functioning. Theoretical and implications of these findings are discussed.