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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/33885

Title: Functional Development of Amygdalae and Anterior Cingulate Cortex in Emotion Processing
Authors: Hung, Yuwen
Advisor: Taylor, Margot
Smith, Mary Lou
Department: Psychology
Keywords: Amygdala
Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC)
Emotion processing
Issue Date: 6-Dec-2012
Abstract: Emotion processing involves specialised brain regions allowing for effective evaluation of the social environment and for the acquisition of social skills that emerge over childhood. In humans, an important aspect of normal development is the ability to understand the facial expressions of others that signal the nature and safety of the environment. Existing functional data, however, have not characterised the developmental trajectories associated with the differing neural and cognitive-behavioural development. The current thesis investigates the functional specialisation and development of the spatial and temporal patterns in neural activities during implicit processing of facial emotions from early childhood through adulthood. The first study identified brain regions engaged in implicit processing of emotional expressions using a simple emotion-processing paradigm (target detection task) with fourteen healthy adults using magnetoencephalography (MEG) recordings. Participants responded to a non-face target (a scrambled pattern) while ignoring the emotional face presented in a different hemifield. Results showed ACC and right-lateralised amygdala activations in early latencies in response to the unattended emotional faces related to rapid and implicit attention to the task-irrelevant facial emotions, specifically during the processing of the fearful emotion. Based on the findings in the first study, the second study investigated the developmental patterns and age-related differences in brain activities associated with the rapid and automatic processing of the emotional expressions in MEG with twelve children 7 – 10 years old, twelve adolescents 12 – 15 years old and twelve young adults (mean age 24.4 years) using the same paradigm. The results showed that emotion processing developed early in childhood in the amygdalae, whereas the processing of fear had later maturation engaging the ACC. The results further demonstrated an age-correlated increase in development in ACC activity and an age-related laterality shift in the amygdalae related to fear processing. The present thesis provides new evidence contributing to the understanding of the protracted but differing normal development in the emotional brain over the childhood into adulthood, and offers critical insights into understanding possible dysfunctions of these brain regions during development.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/33885
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