ERN, Theta Power, and Risk for Anxiety Problems in Preschoolers


Mara J Canen, Rebecca J Brooker


Biological Psychology


The Error Related Negativity (ERN) is a neural marker of performance monitoring that has been inconsistently linked to anxiety risk in children. One avenue for understanding inconsistencies is to investigate other neural dynamics linked to ERN. In this study, we investigated interactions between ERN and the theta frequency band, which is associated with attentional control and theorized to contribute ERN, in association with childhood anxiety risk. Fifty-nine 3-year-old children provided usable EEG data during a modified go/no-go task. Associations between ERN and anxious behaviors in preschoolers were moderated by theta power during incorrect trials. Specifically, when theta power was low, greater ERN predicted more social withdrawal; when theta power was high, ERN and social withdrawal were unrelated. Our findings suggest that ERN and theta may jointly contribute to anxiety risk in early childhood.



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