Considering that anxiety disorders frequently begin before adulthood and often result in chronic impairment, it is important to characterize the developmental pathways leading to the onset of clinical anxiety. Identifying neural biomarkers that can predict the onset of anxiety in childhood may increase our understanding of the etiopathogenesis of anxiety, as well as inform intervention and prevention strategies. An event-related potential (ERP), the error-related negativity (ERN), has been proposed as a biomarker of risk for anxiety and has previously been associated with anxiety in both adults and children. However, no previous study has examined whether the ERN can predict the onset of anxiety disorders. In the current study, ERPs were recorded while 236 healthy children, approximately 6 years of age, performed a go/no-go task to measure the ERN. Three years later, children and parents came back to the lab and completed diagnostic interviews regarding anxiety disorder status. Results indicated that enhanced error-related brain activity at age 6 predicted the onset of new anxiety disorders by age 9, even when controlling for baseline anxiety symptoms and maternal history of anxiety. Considering the potential utility of identifying early biomarkers of risk, this is a novel and important extension of previous work.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Biological Psychiatry