Early Childhood Behavioral Inhibition Predicts Cortical Thickness in Adulthood

Chad M. Sylvester, Deanna M. Barch, Michael P. Harms, Andy C. Belden, Timothy J. Oakberg, Andrea L. Gold, Lauren K. White, Brenda E. Benson, Sonya Troller-Renfree, Kathryn A. Degnan, Heather A. Henderson, Joan L. Luby, Nathan A. Fox, Daniel S. Pine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objective Behavioral inhibition (BI) during early childhood predicts risk for anxiety disorders and altered cognitive control in adolescence. Although BI has been linked to variation in brain function through adulthood, few studies have examined relations between early childhood BI and adult brain structure. Method The relation between early childhood BI and cortical thickness in adulthood was examined in a cohort of individuals followed since early childhood (N = 53, mean age 20.5 years). Analyses tested whether anxiety and/or cognitive control during adolescence moderated relations between BI and cortical thickness. Cognitive control was measured with the Eriksen Flanker Task. Initial analyses examined cortical thickness in regions of interest previously implicated in BI, anxiety disorders, and cognitive control: dorsal anterior cingulate (dACC), anterior insula (aI), and subgenual anterior cingulate (sgACC); and volumes of the amygdala and hippocampus. Exploratory analyses examined relations across the prefrontal cortex. Results BI during early childhood related to thinner dACC in adulthood. Neither anxiety nor cognitive control moderated this relation. A stronger congruency effect on the Eriksen Flanker Task during adolescence independently related to thinner dACC in adulthood. Higher anxiety during adolescence related to thicker cortex in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) in adulthood among those with low BI as children. Conclusion Temperament in early childhood and the interaction between temperament and later anxiety relate to adult brain structure. These results are consistent with prior work associating BI and anxiety with functional brain variability in the dACC and VLPFC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-129.e1
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Key words behavioral inhibition
  • anxiety
  • cingulate
  • cortical thickness
  • structural MRI


Dive into the research topics of 'Early Childhood Behavioral Inhibition Predicts Cortical Thickness in Adulthood'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this