Alumni Research

February 18, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Psychology Alum Bunford Authors paper on Neural Reactivity to Angry Faces, Treatment

Ohio University alum Dr. Nora Bunford ’16Ph.D. co-authored a paper in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology titled “Neural Reactivity to Angry Faces Predicts Treatment Response in Pediatric Anxiety.”

Bunford, who earned Ph.D. in Psychology from the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio University, is a predoctoral intern at the University of Illinois at Chicago Department of Psychiatry.

PsyPost also interviewed Bunford in an article headlined “Neural reactivity to angry faces predicts how youth respond to treatment for anxiety.”

Brain activity measured with an electroencephalograph (EEG) can predict how 7- to 19-year-old youth respond to treatments for anxiety, according to research published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

The study found a neural measure of emotional face processing predicted how well 35 anxious youth responded to cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication. Greater neural reactivity to angry faces was associated with a better treatment response.

Abstract: Although cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy (CBT) and pharmacotherapy are evidence-based treatments for pediatric anxiety, many youth with anxiety disorders fail to respond to these treatments. Given limitations of clinical measures in predicting treatment response, identifying neural predictors is timely. In this study, 35 anxious youth (ages 7–19 years) completed an emotional face-matching task during which the late positive potential (LPP), an event-related potential (ERP) component that indexes sustained attention towards emotional stimuli, was measured. Following the ERP measurement, youth received CBT or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) treatment, and the LPP was examined as a predictor of treatment response. Findings indicated that, accounting for pre-treatment anxiety severity, neural reactivity to emotional faces predicted anxiety severity post- CBT and SSRI treatment such that enhanced electrocortical response to angry faces was associated with better treatment response. An enhanced LPP to angry faces may predict treatment response insofar as it may reflect greater emotion dysregulation or less avoidance and/or enhanced engagement with environmental stimuli in general, including with treatment.

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