Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 109–118 | Cite as

Attenuated LPP to Emotional Face Stimuli Associated with Parent- and Self-Reported Depression in Children and Adolescents

  • Madlen GrunewaldEmail author
  • Mirko DöhnertEmail author
  • Daniel Brandeis
  • Annette Maria Klein
  • Kai von Klitzing
  • Tina Matuschek
  • Stephanie Stadelmann


Individuals diagnosed with a depressive disorder have been found to show reduced reactions to emotional information consistent with the hypothesis of an emotional context insensitivity. However, there are contradictory findings of enhanced reactivity and mood-congruent processing. Electroencephalography (EEG) recordings of the late positive potential (LPP) can display such blunted or enhanced activity. Due to these contradictory findings, there is a need to clarify the role of the LPP in the emergence and presence of depressive disorders especially in children. We used an emotional Go/NoGo task to investigate modulations of the LPP to emotional (fearful, happy, sad) and calm faces in a sample of children and adolescents (age 11;00–14;11) diagnosed with a depressive disorder according to diagnostic parent interviews (K-SADS-PL) (n = 26) compared to a group of age-matched healthy controls (n = 26). LPP positivity was attenuated in children and adolescents with a depressive disorder as well as with higher self-reported depressive symptoms, suggesting reduced reactivity to emotional and calm faces. This is the first study to find generally blunted LPP responses in a clinical sample of depressed youth across reporters. Such dysfunctional modulation of neural activity may represent a potential biomarker for depressive disorders. The results call for further prospective studies investigating the course of the LPP before and after the onset of a depressive disorder in youth.


Depressive disorders Late positive potential (LPP) Blunted reaction Emotional faces 



This study was supported by LIFE—Leipzig Research Center for Civilization Diseases, Universität Leipzig. LIFE is funded by a grant from the European Union, by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and by a grant from the Free State of Saxony within the framework of the excellence initiative.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors state that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

The study was approved by ethics committee of the Universität Leipzig.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was provided by parents and children prior to the assessments.

Supplementary material

10802_2018_429_MOESM1_ESM.docx (409 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 409 kb)


  1. Auerbach, R. P., Stanton, C. H., Proudfit, G. H., & Pizzagalli, D. A. (2015). Self-referential processing in depressed adolescents: A high-density ERP study. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 124(2), 233–245. Scholar
  2. Axelson, D., Birmaher, B., Zelazny, J., Kaufman, J., Gill, M. K., & Brent, D. (2009). K-SADS-PL 2009 working draft. Pittsburgh: Advanced Center for Intervention and Services Research (ACISR) for Early Onset Mood and Anxiety Disorders, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.Google Scholar
  3. Batty, M., & Taylor, M. J. (2003). Early processing of the six basic facial emotional expressions. Cognitive Brain Research, 17(3), 613–620.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beck, A. T., Rush, A. J., Shaw, B. F., & Emery, G. (1979) Cognitive Therapy of Depression. Google Scholar
  5. Birmaher, B., Ryan, N. D., Williamson, D. E., Brent, D. A., Kaufman, J., Dahl, R. E., et al. (1996). Childhood and adolescent depression: A review of the past 10 years. Part I. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 35(11), 1427–1439. Scholar
  6. Burkhouse, K. L., Owens, M., Feurer, C., Sosoo, E., Kudinova, A., & Gibb, B. E. (2017). Increased neural and pupillary reactivity to emotional faces in adolescents with current and remitted major depressive disorder. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 12(5), 783–792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bylsma, L. M., Morris, B. H., & Rottenberg, J. (2008). A meta-analysis of emotional reactivity in major depressive disorder. Clinical Psychology Review, 28(4), 676–691.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Casey, R. J. (1996). Emotional competence in children with externalizing and internalizing disorders. Emotional Development in Atypical Children, 161–183.Google Scholar
  9. Cuthbert, B. N., Schupp, H. T., Bradley, M. M., Birbaumer, N., & Lang, P. J. (2000). Brain potentials in affective picture processing: Covariation with autonomic arousal and affective report. Biological Psychology, 52(2), 95–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Delmo, C., Weiffenbach, O., Gabriel, M., Stadler, C., & Poustka, F. (2001). Diagnostisches Interview-Kiddie-Sads-Present and Lifetime Version (K-SADS-PL). 5. Frankfurt/Main: Klinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie des Kindes- und Jugendalters, pp. 1–241.Google Scholar
  11. Eimer, M., Holmes, A., & McGlone, F. P. (2003). The role of spatial attention in the processing of facial expression: An ERP study of rapid brain responses to six basic emotions. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 3(2), 97–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Foti, D., Hajcak, G., & Dien, J. (2009). Differentiating neural responses to emotional pictures: Evidence from temporal-spatial PCA. Psychophysiology, 46(3), 521–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Foti, D., Olvet, D. M., Klein, D. N., & Hajcak, G. (2010). Reduced electrocortical response to threatening faces in major depressive disorder. Depression and Anxiety, 27(9), 813–820.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Grunewald, M., Stadelmann, S., Brandeis, D., Jaeger, S., Matuschek, T., Weis, S., et al. (2015). Early processing of emotional faces in a go/NoGo task: Lack of N170 right-hemispheric specialisation in children with major depression. Journal of Neural Transmission (Vienna: 1996), 122(9), 1339–1352. Scholar
  15. Hajcak, G., & Dennis, T. A. (2009). Brain potentials during affective picture processing in children. Biological Psychology, 80(3), 333–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hajcak, G., MacNamara, A., & Olvet, D. M. (2010). Event-related potentials, emotion, and emotion regulation: An integrative review. Developmental Neuropsychology, 35(2), 129–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hajcak, G., & Olvet, D. M. (2008). The persistence of attention to emotion: brain potentials during and after picture presentation. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 8(2), 250–255. Scholar
  18. Hare, T. A., Tottenham, N., Davidson, M. C., Glover, G. H., & Casey, B. J. (2005). Contributions of amygdala and striatal activity in emotion regulation. Biological Psychiatry, 57(6), 624–632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Herba, C., & Phillips, M. (2004). Annotation: Development of facial expression recognition from childhood to adolescence: Behavioural and neurological perspectives. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45(7), 1185–1198. Scholar
  20. Jaworska, N., Blier, P., Fusee, W., & Knott, V. (2012a). The temporal electrocortical profile of emotive facial processing in depressed males and females and healthy controls. Journal of Affective Disorders, 136(3), 1072–1081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jaworska, N., Thompson, A., Shah, D., Fisher, D., Ilivitsky, V., & Knott, V. (2012b). Acute tryptophan depletion effects on the vertex and late positive potentials to emotional faces in individuals with a family history of depression. Neuropsychobiology, 65(1), 28–40. Scholar
  22. Kaufman, J., Birmaher, B., Brent, B., Rao, U., & Ryan, N. D. (1996). Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School Aged Children – Present and Lifetime Version (K-SADSPL), Version 1.0 of October 1996. The Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.Google Scholar
  23. Kayser, J., Bruder, G. E., Tenke, C. E., Stewart, J. E., & Quitkin, F. M. (2000). Event-related potentials (ERPs) to hemifield presentations of emotional stimuli: Differences between depressed patients and healthy adults in P3 amplitude and asymmetry. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 36(3), 211–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kerestes, R., Labuschagne, I., Croft, R. J., O’Neill, B. V., Bhagwagar, Z., Phan, K. L., & Nathan, P. J. (2009). Evidence for modulation of facial emotional processing bias during emotional expression decoding by serotonergic and noradrenergic antidepressants: An event-related potential (ERP) study. Psychopharmacology, 202(4), 621–634. Scholar
  25. Krolak-Salmon, P., Fischer, C., Vighetto, A., & Mauguiere, F. (2001). Processing of facial emotional expression: Spatio-temporal data as assessed by scalp event-related potentials. European Journal of Neuroscience, 13(5), 987–994.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kujawa, A., Hajcak, G., Torpey, D., Kim, J., & Klein, D. N. (2012a). Electrocortical reactivity to emotional faces in young children and associations with maternal and paternal depression. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53(2), 207–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kujawa, A., Klein, D. N., & Hajcak, G. (2012b). Electrocortical reactivity to emotional images and faces in middle childhood to early adolescence. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2(4), 458–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kujawa, A., Klein, D. N., & Proudfit, G. H. (2013a). Two-year stability of the late positive potential across middle childhood and adolescence. Biological Psychology, 94(2), 290–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kujawa, A., Weinberg, A., Hajcak, G., & Klein, D. N. (2013b). Differentiating event-related potential components sensitive to emotion in middle childhood: Evidence from temporal–spatial PCA. Developmental Psychobiology, 55(5), 539–550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kujawa, A., MacNamara, A., Fitzgerald, K. D., Monk, C. S., & Phan, K. L. (2015). Enhanced neural reactivity to threatening faces in anxious youth: Evidence from event-related potentials. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 43(8), 1493–1501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Labuschagne, I., Croft, R. J., Phan, K. L., & Nathan, P. J. (2010). Augmenting serotonin neurotransmission with citalopram modulates emotional expression decoding but not structural encoding of moderate intensity sad facial emotional stimuli: An event-related potential (ERP) investigation. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 24(8), 1153–1164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lobaugh, N. J., Gibson, E., & Taylor, M. J. (2006). Children recruit distinct neural systems for implicit emotional face processing. Neuroreport, 17(2), 215–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Luo, W., Feng, W., He, W., Wang, N.-Y., & Luo, Y.-J. (2010). Three stages of facial expression processing: ERP study with rapid serial visual presentation. NeuroImage, 49(2), 1857–1867.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. MacNamara, A., Kotov, R., & Hajcak, G. (2016a). Diagnostic and symptom-based predictors of emotional processing in generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder: An event-related potential study. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 40(3), 275–289. Scholar
  35. MacNamara, A., Vergés, A., Kujawa, A., Fitzgerald, K. D., Monk, C. S., & Phan, K. L. (2016b). Age-related changes in emotional face processing across childhood and into young adulthood: Evidence from event-related potentials. Developmental Psychobiology, 58(1), 27–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Matuschek, T., Jaeger, S., Stadelmann, S., Dölling, K., Weis, S., von Klitzing, K., et al. (2015). The acceptance of the K-SADS-PL–potential predictors for the overall satisfaction of parents and interviewers. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, 24(3), 226–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Morel, S., Ponz, A., Mercier, M., Vuilleumier, P., & George, N. (2009). EEG-MEG evidence for early differential repetition effects for fearful, happy and neutral faces. Brain Research, 1254, 84–98. Scholar
  38. Muhlberger, A., Wieser, M. J., Herrmann, M. J., Weyers, P., Troger, C., & Pauli, P. (2009). Early cortical processing of natural and artificial emotional faces differs between lower and higher socially anxious persons. Journal of Neural Transmission (Vienna: 1996), 116(6), 735–746. Scholar
  39. Nelson, B. D., Perlman, G., Hajcak, G., Klein, D. N., & Kotov, R. (2015). Familial risk for distress and fear disorders and emotional reactivity in adolescence: An event-related potential investigation. Psychological Medicine, 45(12), 2545–2556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Proudfit, G. H., Bress, J. N., Foti, D., Kujawa, A., & Klein, D. N. (2015). Depression and event-related potentials: Emotional disengagement and reward insensitivity. Current Opinion in Psychology, 4, 110–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Quante, M., Hesse, M., Döhnert, M., Fuchs, M., Hirsch, C., Sergeyev, E., et al. (2012). The LIFE child study: A life course approach to disease and health. BMC Public Health, 12(1), 1021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rosvold, H. E., Mirsky, A. F., Sarason, I., Bransome Jr, E. D., & Beck, L. H. (1956). A continuous performance test of brain Damage1'5.Google Scholar
  43. Rottenberg, J., Gross, J. J., & Gotlib, I. H. (2005). Emotion context insensitivity in major depressive disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 114(4), 627–639. Scholar
  44. Schulz, K. P., Fan, J., Magidina, O., Marks, D. J., Hahn, B., & Halperin, J. M. (2007). Does the emotional go/no-go task really measure behavioral inhibition? Convergence with measures on a non-emotional analog. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 22(2), 151–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schupp, H. T., Öhman, A., Junghöfer, M., Weike, A. I., Stockburger, J., & Hamm, A. O. (2004). The facilitated processing of threatening faces: An ERP analysis. Emotion, 4(2), 189–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Smith, E., Weinberg, A., Moran, T., & Hajcak, G. (2013). Electrocortical responses to NIMSTIM facial expressions of emotion. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 88(1), 17–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Solomon, B., DeCicco, J. M., & Dennis, T. A. (2012). Emotional picture processing in children: An ERP study. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2(1), 110–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Speed, B. C., Nelson, B. D., Auerbach, R. P., Klein, D. N., & Hajcak, G. (2016). Depression risk and Electrocortical reactivity during self-referential emotional processing in 8 to 14 year-old girls. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication., 125, 607–619. Scholar
  49. Steel, Z., Marnane, C., Iranpour, C., Chey, T., Jackson, J. W., Patel, V., & Silove, D. (2014). The global prevalence of common mental disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis 1980–2013. International Journal of Epidemiology, 43(2), 476–493. Scholar
  50. Thomas, K. M., Drevets, W. C., Whalen, P. J., Eccard, C. H., Dahl, R. E., Ryan, N. D., & Casey, B. J. (2001). Amygdala response to facial expressions in children and adults. Biological Psychiatry, 49(4), 309–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tottenham, N., Tanaka, J. W., Leon, A. C., McCarry, T., Nurse, M., Hare, T. A., et al. (2009). The NimStim set of facial expressions: Judgments from untrained research participants. Psychiatry Research, 168(3), 242–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Weinberg, A., & Hajcak, G. (2011). The late positive potential predicts subsequent interference with target processing. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23(10), 2994–3007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Weinberg, A., Perlman, G., Kotov, R., & Hajcak, G. (2016). Depression and reduced neural response to emotional images: Distinction from anxiety, and importance of symptom dimensions and age of onset. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 125(1), 26–39. Scholar
  54. Weiss, R. H., & Weiss, B. (2006). Sprachfreier Grundintelligenztest Skala 2–Revision (CFT 20-R).Google Scholar
  55. Weissman, M. M., Orvaschel, H., & Padian, N. (1980). Children’s symptom and social functioning self-report scales comparison of mothers’ and children’s reports. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 168(12), 736–740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Williams, L. M., Palmer, D., Liddell, B. J., Le, S., & Gordon, E. (2006). The ‘when’ and ‘where’ of perceiving signals of threat versus non-threat. NeuroImage, 31(1), 458–467. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LIFE-Leipzig Research Center for Civilization DiseasesUniversität LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and PsychosomaticsUniversität LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  3. 3.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Central Institute of Mental HealthMedical Faculty Mannheim/Heidelberg UniversityMannheimGermany
  4. 4.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  5. 5.Center for Integrative Human PhysiologyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  6. 6.Neuroscience Center ZurichUniversity of Zurich and ETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations