Developing connections for affective regulation: age-related changes in emotional brain connectivity

J Exp Child Psychol. 2011 Mar;108(3):607-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2010.08.006. Epub 2010 Oct 23.


The regulation of affective arousal is a critical aspect of children's social and cognitive development. However, few studies have examined the brain mechanisms involved in the development of this aspect of "hot" executive functioning. This process has been conceptualized as involving prefrontal control of the amygdala. Here, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we investigated the brain mechanisms involved in the development of affective regulation in typically developing 5- to 11-year-olds and an adult comparison sample. Children and adults displayed differing patterns of increased anterior cingulate cortex and decreased amygdala activation during episodes in which emotion regulation was required. Specifically, amygdala activation increased in adults but decreased in children during recovery from a frustrating episode. In addition, we used effective connectivity analyses to investigate differential correlations between key emotional brain areas in response to the regulatory task demands. We found reliable increases in effective connectivity between the anterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala during periods of increased demand for emotion regulation. This effective connectivity increased with age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Age Factors
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / physiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Young Adult