Examining Specificity of Neural Correlates of Childhood Psychotic-like Experiences During an Emotional n-Back Task

Kathleen J. O'Brien, Deanna M. Barch, Sridhar Kandala, Nicole R. Karcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Psychotic-like experiences (PLEs) during childhood are associated with greater risk of developing a psychotic disorder in adulthood, highlighting the importance of identifying neural correlates of childhood PLEs. Furthermore, impairment of cognitive functions, such as working memory and emotion regulation, has also been linked to psychosis risk as well as to disruptions in several brain regions. However, impairments in these domains have also been linked to other disorders, including depression. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to examine whether neural impairments in regions associated with working memory and implicit emotion regulation impairments are specific to PLEs versus depression. Methods: The current study used an emotional n-back task to examine the relationship between childhood PLEs and neural activation of regions involved in both working memory and implicit emotion regulation using data from 8805 9- to 11-year-olds in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study 2.0 release. To examine specificity, we also analyzed associations with depressive symptoms. Results: Our results indicated that increased PLEs during middle childhood were associated with decreased activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, striatum, and pallidum during trials requiring working memory. In contrast, increased activation of the parahippocampus, caudate, nucleus accumbens, and rostral anterior cingulate during face-viewing trials was associated with increased depressive symptoms. Conclusions: These results support the dimensional view of psychosis across the lifespan, providing evidence that neural correlates of PLEs, such as decreased activation during working memory, are present during middle childhood. Furthermore, these correlates are specific to psychotic-like symptoms as compared with depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)580-590
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Depression
  • Emotional n-back
  • Implicit emotion regulation
  • Neuroimaging
  • Psychotic-like experiences
  • Working memory


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