Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 45, Issue 7, pp 1439–1448 | Cite as

Associations between Disorder-Specific Symptoms of Anxiety and Error-Monitoring Brain Activity in Young Children

  • Sharon L. LoEmail author
  • Hans S. Schroder
  • Megan E. Fisher
  • C. Emily Durbin
  • Kate D. Fitzgerald
  • Judith H. Danovitch
  • Jason S. Moser


Anxiety disorders are among the earliest emerging disorders and most common mental health problem across the lifespan. A common characteristic of individuals with anxiety is poor attentional and cognitive control. Therefore, researchers are interested in how cognitive functioning relates to anxiety in young children. In particular, research has demonstrated associations between anxiety and electrophysiological markers of cognitive control skills such as the error-related negativity (ERN). The nature of the anxiety-ERN relationship is not well understood, however. The purpose of the present study was to examine: 1) the association between the ERN and diagnostically-defined symptoms of different anxiety disorders; and 2) the extent to which disorder-specific symptoms of anxiety moderated the association between ERN and behavioral performance on a Go/No-Go task in a sample of 139 children 5–8 years of age (70 females and 69 males). Results suggest that more separation anxiety disorder (SAD) symptoms are associated with a smaller ΔERN, even after controlling for other anxiety disorder symptoms. Children with more SAD symptoms showed higher error rates and failed to exhibit the expected association between ΔERN and behavioral performance, suggesting ineffective error-monitoring in young children with SAD problems.


Error-related negativity Children Separation anxiety Behavioral Performanc 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


This study was funded by the Fuller Theological Seminary/Thrive Center in concert with the John Templeton Foundation (IH116).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10802_2016_247_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplemental Table 1 (DOCX 17 kb)
10802_2016_247_MOESM2_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Supplemental Table 2 (DOCX 17 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sharon L. Lo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Hans S. Schroder
    • 1
  • Megan E. Fisher
    • 1
  • C. Emily Durbin
    • 1
  • Kate D. Fitzgerald
    • 2
  • Judith H. Danovitch
    • 3
  • Jason S. Moser
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

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