European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 215–230 | Cite as

Attenuated neural reactivity to happy faces is associated with rule breaking and social problems in anxious youth

  • Nora BunfordEmail author
  • Autumn Kujawa
  • James E. Swain
  • Kate D. Fitzgerald
  • Christopher S. Monk
  • K. Luan Phan
Original Contribution


Pediatric anxiety is associated with comorbid externalizing behaviors and social problems, and these associations may be related to altered emotion processing. The late positive potential (LPP), an event-related potential component, is a neural marker of emotion processing, and there is evidence that anxious youth exhibits enhanced LPPs to threatening signals. It is unknown, however, if differences in the LPP are related to externalizing behaviors and social problems co-occurring with anxiety and if these associations are driven by altered processing of threatening (angry or fearful faces) or rewarding (happy faces) socio-emotional signals. Thus, in the present study, we examined, in a sample of 39 anxious youth, the association between LPPs, following socio-emotional signals and externalizing behaviors and social problems. Results indicated an association between attenuated LPPs in response to happy faces and greater rule-breaking and social problems. These findings suggest that differences in positive socio-emotional signal processing are related to heterogeneity in pediatric anxiety and that LPPs are a sensitive index of such heterogeneity.


Anxiety Rule breaking Social problems Event-related potential (ERP) Late positive potential (LPP) Positive socio-emotional signal processing 



This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (R01MH086517 to KLP and CSM). AK is supported by a training grant from the National Institutes of Health (T32MH067631 to Mark Rasenick).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

We declare that we have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nora Bunford
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Autumn Kujawa
    • 1
  • James E. Swain
    • 3
    • 4
  • Kate D. Fitzgerald
    • 3
  • Christopher S. Monk
    • 3
    • 4
  • K. Luan Phan
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyOhio UniversityAthensUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  5. 5.Departments of Psychology and Anatomy & Cell Biology, and Graduate Program in NeuroscienceUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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