Neural substrates for processing task-irrelevant sad images in adolescents.
Neural systems related to cognitive and emotional processing were examined in adolescents using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Ten healthy adolescents performed an emotional oddball task. Subjects detected infrequent circles (targets) within a continual stream of phase-scrambled images (standards). Sad and neutral images were intermittently presented as task-irrelevant distracters (novels). As previously shown for adults, when the adolescents responded to the task-relevant targets, activation increased in the dorsal attention-executive system including the anterior middle frontal gyrus (aMFG), dorsal anterior cingulate (ACG), posterior cingulate (PCG), insula, and supramarginal gyrus (SMG). Unlike adults, however, the adolescents exhibited strong activation to the emotional distracter images not only in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VmPFC), but also in the posterior middle frontal gyrus (pMFG) and in the parietal cortex. Those subjects who had stronger VmPFC activation to emotional distraction also had reduced activation in the aMFG during target detection, suggesting that emotional information may interfere with executive processing in these adolescents. In contrast, pMFG and PCG activation to emotional distracters was positively correlated with aMFG activation to targets, indicating a different role of these regions from the VmPFC. The pattern of activation to task-irrelevant emotional distraction suggests a possible immaturity of brain function in cognitive control over emotional distraction in adolescents.
Wang, L; Huettel, S; De Bellis, MD
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