Socio-Emotional Control in Early-Adolescence The contribution of the pulvinar and the aPFC

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Adolescence is a critical period which involves intense maturational changes. The imbalance between the protracted development of the prefrontal regions and the faster development of subcortical regions might lead to difficulties in controlling emotional actions for adolescents. During mid-adolescence, a maturational shift from the subcortical pulvino-amygdalar system to the aPFC-amygdalar system is modulated by pubertal maturation. Early-adolescence marks the onset of structural and hormonal changes that may affect socio-emotional behavior. Therefore, the present study aims to investigate the influence of pubertal maturation on the system(s) involved in emotion action control in 12-year-old children (n= 89), in which pubertal maturation is measured by testosterone levels. An fMRI-based Approach-Avoidance task was used to measure neural activation in the pulvinar, amygdala and aPFC during control of emotional actions. Results show that pubertal maturation positively correlates with pulvinar activity, in which adolescents with higher testosterone levels showed greater pulvinar activity during control of their emotional actions. The aPFC and the amygdala showed no testosterone modulation. However, both these regions show a stronger effect during the affect-incongruent trials compared to the affect-congruent trials. When comparing both genders, boys show greater pulvinar activity during control as pubertal development progresses compared to girls. These findings suggest that the onset of puberty triggers the pulvinar, which gets more involved in controlling emotional actions. Moreover, the sharp rise of testosterone levels during early-adolescence may be related to a disturbance of prefrontal control, resulting in an increase of pulvinar activity and a decrease of performance.
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen