Neural reactivity to monetary rewards and losses differentiates social from generalized anxiety in children

Ellen M. Kessel, Autumn Kujawa, Greg Hajcak Proudfit, Daniel N. Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Background The relationship between reward sensitivity and pediatric anxiety is poorly understood. Evidence suggests that alterations in reward processing are more characteristic of depressive than anxiety disorders. However, some studies have reported that anxiety disorders are also associated with perturbations in reward processing. Heterogeneity in the forms of anxiety studied may account for the differences between studies. We used the feedback-negativity, an event-related potential sensitive to monetary gains versus losses (ΔFN), to examine whether different forms of youth anxiety symptoms were uniquely associated with reward sensitivity as indexed by neural reactivity to the receipt of positive and negative monetary outcomes. Method Participants were 390, eight- to ten-year-old children (175 females) from a large community sample. The ΔFN was measured during a monetary reward task. Self-reports of child anxiety and depression symptoms and temperamental positive emotionality (PE) were obtained. Results Multiple regression analysis revealed that social anxiety and generalized anxiety symptoms were unique predictors of reward sensitivity after accounting for concurrent depressive symptoms and PE. While social anxiety was associated with a greater ΔFN, generalized anxiety was associated with a reduced ΔFN. Conclusions Different symptom dimensions of child anxiety are differentially related to alterations in reward sensitivity. This may, in part, explain inconsistent findings in the literature regarding reward processing in anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)792-800
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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