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Journal Article

Social feedback processing from early to late adolescence: Influence of sex, age, and attachment style


Vrticka,  Pascal
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA, USA;
Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, University of Geneva, Switzerland;
Laboratory for the Study of Emotion Elicitation and Expression, Department of Psychology, University of Geneva, Switzerland;

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Vrticka, P., Sander, D., Anderson, B., Badoud, D., Eliez, S., & Dabenne, M. (2014). Social feedback processing from early to late adolescence: Influence of sex, age, and attachment style. Brain and Behavior, 4(5), 703-720. doi:10.1002/brb3.251.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-F2FD-F
Objective The establishment of an accurate understanding of one's social context is a central developmental task during adolescence. A critical component of such development is to learn how to integrate the objective evaluation of one's behavior with the social response to the latter—here referred to as social feedback processing. Case report We measured brain activity by means of fMRI in 33 healthy adolescents (12–19 years old, 14 females). Participants played a difficult perceptual game with integrated verbal and visual feedback. Verbal feedback provided the participants with objective performance evaluation (won vs. lost). Visual feedback consisted of either smiling or angry faces, representing positive or negative social evaluations. Together, the combination of verbal and visual feedback gave rise to congruent versus incongruent social feedback combinations. In addition to assessing sex differences, we further tested for the effects of age and attachment style on social feedback processing. Results revealed that brain activity during social feedback processing was significantly modulated by sex, age, and attachment style in prefrontal cortical areas, ventral anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula, caudate, and amygdala/hippocampus. We found indication for heightened activity during incongruent social feedback processing in females, older participants, and individuals with an anxious attachment style. Conversely, we observed stronger activity during processing of congruent social feedback in males and participants with an avoidant attachment style. Conclusion Our findings not only extend knowledge on the typical development of socio-emotional brain function during adolescence, but also provide first clues on how attachment insecurities, and particularly attachment avoidance, could interfere with the latter mechanisms.