Frontal alpha EEG asymmetry and heart rate variability as biological markers of negative affect in adolescents

Proposal details

Title: Frontal alpha EEG asymmetry and heart rate variability as biological markers of negative affect in adolescents
Research Area(s): Emotion and Self Regulation
Background: Adolescence is a period of increased incidence of psychological disorders, for example depression, which has dramatically increased rates of onset around puberty (Seeley & Lewinsohn, 2009). The INTEGRATE model refers to individuals’ responses to changes in the internal and external environment as emotion or action tendencies, and processes recruited to maintain or modify these responses as self-regulation (Williams et al., 2008). Disorders of mood, such as anxiety and depression, can be conceptualised as disorders of emotion and self-regulation respectively, as demonstrated by responses on modified Stroop and visual probe tasks (Mogg & Bradley, 2005). Neurophysiological investigation of emotion and self-regulation can complement psychological research into vulnerability and resilience to psychological disorders, allowing the development of more effective, timely and individualised interventions (Cicchetti & Blender, 2006). Frontal alpha EEG asymmetry and heart rate variability are two neurophysiological measures implicated in self-regulation; a process integral to emotional resilience and wellbeing. Davidson (1998) proposes that greater left relative to right frontal EEG activity generates approach motivation and positive affect, whereas greater right relative to left frontal activity produces withdrawal motivation and negative affect. Greater left frontal activity has been related to increased dispositional positive affect (Tomarken, Davidson, Wheeler, & Doss, 1992) and psychological wellbeing (Urry et al., 2004). Conversely, increased right frontal activity has been associated with depression and anxiety (Mathersul, Williams, Hopkinson, & Kemp, 2008). The few studies that specifically address adolescent populations report contradictory findings. This may result from age-mediated changes that are obscured by collapsing data across age. Heart rate variability (HRV) reflects the ability of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) to adjust heart rate to disturbances (Grippo & Johnson, 2002). Porges (2007) proposes that the parasympathetic influence on HRV, via the vagus nerve, acts as a ‘brake’ in the absence of environmental challenges, allowing the individual to engage in restorative and social behaviours. In adults, high frequency HRV, a measure of parasympathetic tone, has been related to negative affect (Bleil, Gianaros, Jennings, Flory, & Manuck, 2008). In children and adolescents, decreased HRV has been associated with difficulty controlling behaviour in 8 to 10 and 13 to 15 year old males (Allen, Matthews, & Kenyon, 2000); parasuicidal behaviour in adolescent girls (Crowell et al., 2005); lower dispositional sympathy and greater distress in third and sixth grade girls, and higher arousal and less gaze aversion to a distressing film in third and sixth grade boys (Fabes, Eisenberg, & Eisenbud, 1993). Adolescent studies have not investigated the relationship of HRV to mood, nor do they specifically consider changes across age. The relationships of frontal asymmetry and HRV to emotion suggest a potential association between these two variables. Furthermore, there is evidence from hemisphere inactivation studies for lateralisation of the components of the ANS and that this may vary with age (Ahern et al., 2001; Thayer et al., 2009; Wittling, Block, Genzel, & Schweiger, 1998). Research is needed to elucidate whether frontal asymmetry and HRV effectively serve as biological markers of negative affect, whether a relationship exists between the two markers and if so, of what nature. Furthermore, the influence that development, particularly adolescence, has on frontal asymmetry, HRV and their relationships with negative affect also remains unknown.
Aims: This study aims to examine the relationships between frontal asymmetry, HRV and negative affect in a non-clinical population, and the impact of adolescence on these relationships. 1. Participants with greater left frontal activity will have lower negative affect, and participants with greater right frontal activity will have higher negative affect. Participants with high HRV will have lower negative affect, and participants with low HRV will have higher negative affect. 2. Greater left frontal activity will be associated with high HRV, and greater frontal activity will be associated with low HRV. 3. Age will moderate the relationships between frontal asymmetry, HRV and negative affect.
Method: One hundred and twenty healthy participants aged between 10 and 21 years will participate in this study. Participants will be divided into four groups according to age: 10-12 years, 13-15 years, 16-18 years and 19-21 years. Participants will complete (i) a web-questionnaire, including demographic items such as age and gender, and the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS -21) questionnaire; and (ii) concurrent EEG and heart rate recordings during resting eyes-closed and eyes-open task. References Ahern, G. L., Sollers, J. J., Lane, R. D., Labiner, D. M., Herring, A. M., Weinand, M. E., et al. (2001). Heart rate and heart rate variability changes in the intracarotid sodium amobarbital test. Epilepsia, 42 (7), 912-921. Allen, M. T., Matthews, K. A., & Kenyon, K. L. (2000). The relationships of resting baroreflex sensitivity, heart rate variability and measures of impulse control in children and adolescents. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 37, 185-194. Bleil, M. E., Gianaros, P. J., Jennings, J. R., Flory, J. D., & Manuck, S. B. (2008). Trait negative affect: toward an integrated model of understanding psychological risk for impairment in cardiac autonomic function. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70, 328-337. Cicchetti, D., & Blender, J. A. (2006). A multiple-levels-of-analysis perspective on resilience. Annals New York Academy of Sciences, 1094, 248-258. Crowell, S. E., Beauchaine, T. P., McCauley, E., Smith, C. J., Stevens, A. L., Sylvers, P., et al. (2005). Psychological, autonomic, and serotonergic correlates of parasuicide among adolescent girls. Development and Psychopathology, 17, 1105-1127. Davidson, R. J. (1998). Affective style and affective disorders: perspectives from affective neuroscience. Cognition and Emotion, 12 (3), 307-330. Fabes, R. A., Eisenberg, N., & Eisenbud, L. (1993). Behavioral and physiological correlates of children's reactions to others in distress. Developmental Psychology, 29 (4), 655-663. Grippo, A., & Johnson, A. K. (2002). Biological mechanisms in the relationship between depression and heart disease. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 26 (8), 941-962. Mathersul, D., Williams, L. M., Hopkinson, P. J., & Kemp, A. H. (2008). Investigating models of affect: relationships among EEG alpha asymmetry, depression, and anxiety. Emotion, 8 (4), 560-572. Mogg, K., & Bradley, B. P. (2005). Attentional bias in generalized anxiety disorder versus depressive disorder. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 29 (1), 29-45. Porges, S. (2007). The polyvagal perspective. Biological Psychology, 74 (2), 116-143. Seeley, J. R., & Lewinsohn, P. M. (2009). Epidemiology of mood disorders during adolescence: implications for lifetime risk. In Adolescent emotional development and the emergence of depressive disorders (pp. 33-55). New York: Cambridge University Press. Thayer, J. F., Sollers, J. J., Labiner, D. M., Weinand, M., Herring, A. M., Lane, R. D., et al. (2009). Age-related differences in prefrontal control of heart rate in humans: A pharmacological blockade study. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 72 (1), 81-88. Tomarken, A. J., Davidson, R. J., Wheeler, R. E., & Doss, R. C. (1992). Individual differences in anterior brain asymmetry and fundamental dimensions of emotion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62 (4), 676-687. Urry, H. L., Nitschke, J. B., Dolski, I., Jackson, D. C., Dalton, K. M., Mueller, C. J., et al. (2004). Making a life worth living: neural correlates of well-being. Psychological Science, 15 (6), 367-372. Williams, L. M., Gatt, J. M., Hatch, A., Palmer, D. M., Nagy, M., Rennie, C., et al. (2008). The INTEGRATE model of emotion, thinking and self regulation: an application to the "paradox of aging." Journal of Integrative Neuroscience, 7 (3), 367-404. Wittling, W., Block, A., Genzel, S., & Schweiger, E. (1998). Hemisphere asymmetry in parasympathetic control of the heart. Neuropsychologia, 36 (5), 461-468.