Scientific article

Brain activity underlying negative self- and other-perception in adolescents: The role of attachment-derived self-representations

Published inCognitive, affective & behavioral neuroscience, vol. 17, no. 3, p. 554-576
Publication date2017

One of teenagers' key developmental tasks is to engage in new and meaningful relationships with peers and adults outside the family context. Attachment-derived expectations about the self and others in terms of internal attachment working models have the potential to shape such social reorientation processes critically and thereby influence adolescents' social-emotional development and social integration. Because the neural underpinnings of this developmental task remain largely unknown, we sought to investigate them by functional magnetic resonance imaging. We asked n = 44 adolescents (ages 12.01-18.84 years) to evaluate positive and negative adjectives regarding either themselves or a close other during an adapted version of the well-established self-other trait-evaluation task. As measures of attachment, we obtained scores reflecting participants' positive versus negative attachment-derived self- and other-models by means of the Relationship Questionnaire. We controlled for possible confounding factors by also obtaining scores reflecting internalizing/externalizing problems, schizotypy, and borderline symptomatology. Our results revealed that participants with a more negative attachment-derived self-model showed increased brain activity during positive and negative adjective evaluation regarding the self, but decreased brain activity during negative adjective evaluation regarding a close other, in bilateral amygdala/parahippocampus, bilateral anterior temporal pole/anterior superior temporal gyrus, and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These findings suggest that a low positivity of the self-concept characteristic for the attachment anxiety dimension may influence neural information processing, but in opposite directions when it comes to self- versus (close) other-representations. We discuss our results in the framework of attachment theory and regarding their implications especially for adolescent social-emotional development and social integration.

  • Swiss National Science Foundation - NCCR Affective Sciences: Emotion in Individual Behavior and Social Processes (phase I)
  • Swiss National Science Foundation - n° 100014-135311/1; no. PP00B-102864;51AU40 _125759;no. 51NF40- 104897
Citation (ISO format)
DEBBANÉ, Martin et al. Brain activity underlying negative self- and other-perception in adolescents: The role of attachment-derived self-representations. In: Cognitive, affective & behavioral neuroscience, 2017, vol. 17, n° 3, p. 554–576. doi: 10.3758/s13415-017-0497-9
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal1530-7026

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