Neurodevelopmental changes in the responsiveness of systems involved in top down attention and emotional responding

Soonjo Hwang, Stuart F. White, Zachary T. Nolan, Stephen Sinclair, R. J.R. Blair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


In this study, we aimed to investigate age related changes in systems implicated in top down attention and the implications of this for amygdala responses to emotional distracters. Fifty-one healthy subjects including 18 children (aged 10-14), 15 adolescents (aged 14-18), and 18 young adults (aged 18-25) completed the affective Stroop paradigm while undergoing functional MRI. While achieving comparable behavioral performance, children, relative to adolescents and adults, showed increased activation in areas including anterior cingulate gyrus and precentral gyrus in task relative to view trials. In addition, children showed increased activation within the amygdala and fusiform gyrus in response to emotional stimuli. Notably, the group difference within the amygdala was particularly pronounced during task trials. Also children showed increased connectivity between amygdala and superior frontal gyrus and bilateral postcentral gyrii in response to negative task trials. These data are consistent with previous work indicating less consolidated functional integrity in regions implicated in top down attention in children relative to older participants and extend this work by indicating that this less consolidated functional integrity leads to reduced automatic emotion regulation as a function of top down attention. Given that reduced automatic emotion regulation as a function of top down attention is considered a risk factor for the development of anxiety disorders, these data may contribute to an understanding of the increased risk for the development of these disorders at this age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-285
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2014



  • Affective Stroop
  • Amygdala
  • Anterior cingulate gyrus
  • Development
  • Emotion
  • Top-down attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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