Adolescence is reputed to be a time of heightened emotionality and limited impulse control. Furthermore, emotion is frequently cited as the instigator of impulsive actions within this developmental period. That is, adolescents' powerful emotions may disrupt efforts to self-regulate and lead to impulsive actions that do not, in fact, serve the individual's long-term goals. Additionally, poor decision-making during this age range frequently has serious negative consequences. Understanding the cognitive and neurobiological mechanisms underlying the developing relationship between emotion and cognitive control may ultimately help us encourage teens to avoid potentially dangerous decisions and actions. To this end, this dissertation presents four studies aimed at better understanding the influence of emotion on higher-level cognition and self-regulation during adolescence. The first study introduces a task that requires participants to ignore emotional images while exercising inhibitory motor control (a go-nogo task). The second study uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore age differences in brain activation during performance of the emotional-distraction go-nogo task introduced in the first study. The third study extends the emotional distraction paradigm to a second form of higher-level cognition by using emotional images as backgrounds in an n-back working memory task. The fourth study examines the influence of early institutional care and BDNF genotype on performance of the emotional-distraction go-nogo task. Together these studies inform us regarding developmental changes in the interface between emotion and cognition during adolescence.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. October 2010. Major: Child Psychology. Advisor: Kathleen M. Thomas. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 138 pages, appendices I-II.
Cohen, Julia E..
Developing interactions between executive function and emotion during adolescence..
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