Panel on Stress, Attention and Learning

Thursday, March 16, 3 p.m.- 4 p.m., CS 101

Jetha, M “Visual ERPs and Attention Bias to Threat in Children: Associations with Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms”

Biases in the earliest stages of social information processing, namely the detection and allocation of attention to potentially threatening cues, have been proposed to play an important role in the etiology and maintenance of both aggression and anxiety.  The neurophysiological basis of perceptual-attentional social threat processing biases in anxious children is currently sparse and inconsistent, and with regard to childhood externalizing symptoms and internalizing-externalizing comorbidity, such research is essentially nonexistent. The present study addresses these substantial research gaps by exploring associations between children’s internalizing, externalizing, and comorbid symptoms and ERP indices of social threat processing biases, operationalized as ERP amplitude differences to threatening (angry or fearful) versus neutral facial expressions. The results reveal that internalizing symptoms are associated with threat processing biases at preconscious information-processing stages, whereas externalizing symptoms are associated with blunted differential processing of fearful versus neutral faces at a slightly later information-processing stage. In addition, there was a significant interaction between internalizing and externalizing symptoms predicting average ERP latencies across emotional face conditions. Greater internalizing symptoms were associated with earlier ERP latencies among children with low co-occurring externalizing symptoms, but not among children with high co-occurring externalizing symptoms. The present findings contribute to the limited research on neurophysiological indices of social threat processing biases and children’s patterns of externalizing and internalizing symptoms.

Jones, K. “If Only Fish Could Meditate:  Stress as it Relates to Cognition, Learning and Behaviour”

I will present an overview of the correlations, the connections, and the cause–effect relationships between behavior and stress in fish species. Theoretical models of fish behavior, including contributions from experimental and comparative psychology, help us to understand the ways in which physiology can influence or direct behavior, and conversely the physiological consequences of behavior. Productive areas of current research bringing together studies of physiology, stress, and behavior include subjects as diverse as foraging and feeding behavior, migration, learning, parental and social behavior, and life history patterns. Broader studies of additional model fish species provide dramatic increases in our understanding of both mechanisms at the level of molecular genetics and consequences at the level of evolutionary ecology. I will consider the central role of the concept of optimality and how it links the physiological and behavioral aspects of stress. Optimality in terms of physiology is considered in terms of proximate cause-and-effect relationships. For behavior, considerations of optimality more often refer to ultimate, evolutionary consequences. I will show how optimality can bring together proximate and ultimate considerations of stress. I propose possible future research directions that will continue to enhance our understanding of both proximate and ultimate aspects of behavior and stress in fishes.