Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Committee Chair

Woodruff-Borden, Janet

Author's Keywords

Auditory evoked brain responses; Anxious; Vulnerabilities; Neonates


Anxiety in children; Anxiety--Physiological aspects


Anxiety disorders are prevalent in both adult and child populations, and are associated with significant economic and psychosocial costs. There are clearly familial patterns of transmission within the anxiety disorders, and the inherited risk is likely a non-specific vulnerability toward negative affect, with a biological-environmental interaction leading to specific manifestations within the anxiety disorders. Among the vulnerabilities toward anxiety may be information processing biases that predispose individuals to be more vigilant to novelty, processes that may be specifically associated with the right cerebral hemisphere. The current study utilized auditory event related potentials (ERPs) to explore the degree to which such processes may be related to risk toward anxiety disorders in a neonatal population (n=30). Findings supported the growing evidence that predispositions toward anxious patterns of responding are associated with greater activation of the right cerebral hemisphere, as neonates of more highly anxious mothers displayed more positive right hemisphere responses overall. Further, consistent with theories that attentional biases toward novelty are associated with the development and maintenance of pathological anxiety, it was found that measures of both maternal state and trait anxiety were significant predictors of the neonate's brain response to a stranger's voice. These findings are discussed in terms of implications for further understanding the developmental pathways associated pathological anxiety.