Neural architecture supporting active emotion processing in children: A multivariate approach

M. Catalina Camacho, Helmet T. Karim, Susan B. Perlman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Background: Adaptive emotion processing is critical for nearly all aspects of social and emotional functioning. There are distinct developmental trajectories associated with improved emotion processing, with a protracted developmental course for negative or complex emotions. The specific changes in neural circuitry that underlie this development, however are still scarcely understood. We employed a multivariate approach in order to elucidate distinctions in complex, naturalistic emotion processing between childhood and adulthood. Method: Twenty-one adults (M±SD age = 26.57 ± 5.08 years) and thirty children (age = 7.75 ± 1.80 years) completed a free-viewing movie task during BOLD fMRI scanning. This task was designed to assess naturalistic processing of movie clips portraying positive, negative, and neutral emotions. Multivariate support vector machines (SVM) were trained to classify age groups based on neural activation during the task. Results: SVMs were able to successfully classify condition (positive, negative, and neutral) across all participants with high accuracy (61.44%). SVMs could successfully distinguish adults and children within each condition (ps < 0.05). Regions that informed the age group SVMs were associated with sensory and socio-emotional processing (inferior parietal lobule), emotion regulation (inferior frontal gyrus), and sensory regions of the temporal and occipital lobes. Conclusions: These results point to distributed differences in activation between childhood and adulthood unique to each emotional condition. In the negative condition specifically, there is evidence for a shift in engagement from regions of sensory and socio-emotional integration to emotion regulation regions between children and adults. These results provide insight into circuitry contributing to maturation of emotional processing across development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-180
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Children
  • Development
  • Emotion processing
  • Machine learning
  • Naturalistic viewing

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