Task-based and Resting State Functional Connectivity Patterns: Links to Adolescent Emotion Regulation & Psychopathology

Jennifer Poon

Advisor: Tara Chaplin, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: James Thompson, Sarah Fischer

Johnson Center, #239A
September 07, 2018, 12:00 PM to 02:00 PM


Emotions are complex, multi-system psychological states comprised of neural and peripheral physiological responses, behavioral tendencies, cognitive appraisals, and subjective experiences. When poorly regulated, however, emotions can lead to a myriad of negative psychological outcomes. Adolescence is a developmental period characterized by heightened emotional reactivity and neurobiological changes. The current fMRI study investigates how early adolescents’ behavioral (self-reported emotion regulation, negative emotion) and physiological (heart rate, salivary cortisol) emotion regulation (ER) abilities mediate the relationship between their task-based (n=67) and resting state (n=55) functional connectivity between cortico-limbic regions (amygdala, insula) and prefrontal cognitive control regions (ACC, dlPFC) and future levels of internalizing and externalizing symptoms. Findings revealed that adolescents with stronger limbic-prefrontal connectivity when viewing negative emotional images reported more ER difficulties one year later which, in turn, predicted higher levels of child-reported internalizing and externalizing symptoms two years later. This is the only study to date that provides compelling—albeit preliminary—evidence that self-reported ER problems longitudinally mediate the association between task-based functional connectivity patterns and future psychological symptoms among adolescents. Rather than conferring risk for any particular disorder, results suggest that heightened corticolimbic functional connectivity in the context of an affective paradigm may serve a broad-based risk factor for psychopathology. These findings may inform future emotion-focused prevention and intervention efforts aimed at youth susceptible to future internalizing and externalizing problems.