Abstract

The behavioral inhibition system [Gray, J. A. The neuropsychology of anxiety: An enquiry into the functions of the septo-hippocampal system. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982] proposes that anxiety is associated with the processing of novel stimuli. We aimed to explore this relationship by recording auditory event-related potentials associated with unexpected novel noises in typically developing children. Children aged 10–14 years with low (n = 12) and high (n = 11) self-report trait anxiety were assessed using a novelty oddball task. The N1 associated with novel stimuli, specifically the “N1c” component maximal at temporal lobe sites, was of significantly longer latency (p = .014) and greater amplitude (p = .004) in the high compared with the low anxious group. This group difference was supported by linear correlations between N1c amplitude and trait anxiety scores. There was no effect of anxiety on the later novelty P3. These data suggest a subtle moderating role of trait anxiety on brain response to novelty, and further research with clinically anxious children is indicated.

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