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Anxiety symptoms and children's eye gaze during fear learning.
J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2017 Nov; 58(11):1276-1286.JC

Abstract

BACKGROUND

The eye region of the face is particularly relevant for decoding threat-related signals, such as fear. However, it is unclear if gaze patterns to the eyes can be influenced by fear learning. Previous studies examining gaze patterns in adults find an association between anxiety and eye gaze avoidance, although no studies to date examine how associations between anxiety symptoms and eye-viewing patterns manifest in children. The current study examined the effects of learning and trait anxiety on eye gaze using a face-based fear conditioning task developed for use in children.

METHODS

Participants were 82 youth from a general population sample of twins (aged 9-13 years), exhibiting a range of anxiety symptoms. Participants underwent a fear conditioning paradigm where the conditioned stimuli (CS+) were two neutral faces, one of which was randomly selected to be paired with an aversive scream. Eye tracking, physiological, and subjective data were acquired. Children and parents reported their child's anxiety using the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders.

RESULTS

Conditioning influenced eye gaze patterns in that children looked longer and more frequently to the eye region of the CS+ than CS- face; this effect was present only during fear acquisition, not at baseline or extinction. Furthermore, consistent with past work in adults, anxiety symptoms were associated with eye gaze avoidance. Finally, gaze duration to the eye region mediated the effect of anxious traits on self-reported fear during acquisition.

CONCLUSIONS

Anxiety symptoms in children relate to face-viewing strategies deployed in the context of a fear learning experiment. This relationship may inform attempts to understand the relationship between pediatric anxiety symptoms and learning.

Authors+Show Affiliations

Emotion and Development Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA. Department of Psychology, University of California Riverside, Riverside, CA, USA.Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.Department of Psychology, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA.Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA.Department of Psychiatry, Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA.Department of Psychiatry, Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA.Laboratory of Neuropsychology, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.Emotion and Development Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.Emotion and Development Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA. Center for Biobehavioral Health, The Research Institute, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH, USA. Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA.Emotion and Development Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.Emotion and Development Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.

Pub Type(s)

Journal Article
Twin Study

Language

eng

PubMed ID

28736915

Citation

Michalska, Kalina J., et al. "Anxiety Symptoms and Children's Eye Gaze During Fear Learning." Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, vol. 58, no. 11, 2017, pp. 1276-1286.
Michalska KJ, Machlin L, Moroney E, et al. Anxiety symptoms and children's eye gaze during fear learning. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2017;58(11):1276-1286.
Michalska, K. J., Machlin, L., Moroney, E., Lowet, D. S., Hettema, J. M., Roberson-Nay, R., Averbeck, B. B., Brotman, M. A., Nelson, E. E., Leibenluft, E., & Pine, D. S. (2017). Anxiety symptoms and children's eye gaze during fear learning. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, 58(11), 1276-1286. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12749
Michalska KJ, et al. Anxiety Symptoms and Children's Eye Gaze During Fear Learning. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2017;58(11):1276-1286. PubMed PMID: 28736915.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - JOUR T1 - Anxiety symptoms and children's eye gaze during fear learning. AU - Michalska,Kalina J, AU - Machlin,Laura, AU - Moroney,Elizabeth, AU - Lowet,Daniel S, AU - Hettema,John M, AU - Roberson-Nay,Roxann, AU - Averbeck,Bruno B, AU - Brotman,Melissa A, AU - Nelson,Eric E, AU - Leibenluft,Ellen, AU - Pine,Daniel S, Y1 - 2017/07/24/ PY - 2017/03/13/accepted PY - 2017/7/25/pubmed PY - 2018/6/6/medline PY - 2017/7/25/entrez KW - Eye gaze KW - anxiety KW - conditioning KW - face processing KW - psychophysiology SP - 1276 EP - 1286 JF - Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines JO - J Child Psychol Psychiatry VL - 58 IS - 11 N2 - BACKGROUND: The eye region of the face is particularly relevant for decoding threat-related signals, such as fear. However, it is unclear if gaze patterns to the eyes can be influenced by fear learning. Previous studies examining gaze patterns in adults find an association between anxiety and eye gaze avoidance, although no studies to date examine how associations between anxiety symptoms and eye-viewing patterns manifest in children. The current study examined the effects of learning and trait anxiety on eye gaze using a face-based fear conditioning task developed for use in children. METHODS: Participants were 82 youth from a general population sample of twins (aged 9-13 years), exhibiting a range of anxiety symptoms. Participants underwent a fear conditioning paradigm where the conditioned stimuli (CS+) were two neutral faces, one of which was randomly selected to be paired with an aversive scream. Eye tracking, physiological, and subjective data were acquired. Children and parents reported their child's anxiety using the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders. RESULTS: Conditioning influenced eye gaze patterns in that children looked longer and more frequently to the eye region of the CS+ than CS- face; this effect was present only during fear acquisition, not at baseline or extinction. Furthermore, consistent with past work in adults, anxiety symptoms were associated with eye gaze avoidance. Finally, gaze duration to the eye region mediated the effect of anxious traits on self-reported fear during acquisition. CONCLUSIONS: Anxiety symptoms in children relate to face-viewing strategies deployed in the context of a fear learning experiment. This relationship may inform attempts to understand the relationship between pediatric anxiety symptoms and learning. SN - 1469-7610 UR - https://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/28736915/Anxiety_symptoms_and_children's_eye_gaze_during_fear_learning_ L2 - https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12749 DB - PRIME DP - Unbound Medicine ER -