The error-related negativity as a neuromarker of risk or resilience in young children

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Brain and Behavior


Introduction The error-related negativity (ERN) is a neural response that reflects error monitoring. Contradictorily, an enlarged (more negative) ERN has been cited as both a risk factor and a protective factor, which hinders its utility as a predictive indicator. The aim of the current study was to examine the associations between ERN measured in early childhood with the development of cognitive control (CC), emotion regulation, and internalizing/externalizing symptoms over 1-2 years. Methods When children were ages 5-7, EEG was collected during a Go/No-Go task. A subset of the original participants (n = 30) were selected based on their baseline ERN in an extreme-case design: half with high-amplitude ERN, matched by age and sex with another group with low-amplitude ERN. Results At follow-up, children in the High-Amplitude group showed better executive function, less self-reported anxiety and depression, less affect dysregulation, more parent-rated CC, less lability/negativity, and fewer parent-reported externalizing problems. Many results held even when accounting for baseline levels. Further, emotion dysregulation mediated the relationship between the ERN and both anxiety and externalizing problems, while CC mediated the ERN's relationship with externalizing problems only. Conclusions These results can inform identification and intervention efforts for children at risk for psychopathology.

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