Alecia Vogel-Hammen, M.D., Ph.D.

Fellow In Child & Adolescent ADHD

Project Details


Joan Luby, M.D.
Susan Perlman, Ph.D.


Washington University in St. Louis


Neural Correlates of Emotion Reactivity and Regulation in Excitability and Irritability

Project Title

Neural Correlates of Emotion Reactivity and Regulation in Excitability and Irritability 

Project Summary

Emotion dysregulation is “a pattern of emotional experiences or expressions that is experienced either too intensely or too enduringly to be adaptive”, or in other words, emotional responses that are too big in intensity, duration, or often both, to be helpful in most circumstances. Emotion dysregulation occurs across psychiatric diagnoses but is increasingly recognized as an important aspect of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Emotion dysregulation in ADHD increases the likelihood of having other psychiatric diagnoses and more impaired functioning. However, the study of emotion dysregulation in ADHD has been largely limited to irritability, which is limited to negative affect. Yet there are many children, particularly children with ADHD, who are not chronically irritable but are impaired from dysregulation that also includes positive affect, an understudied but potentially clinically important area. Emotion dysregulation including increased positive affect, termed excitability, can increase risk of later psychopathology and impairment in children with early onset psychopathology. In this project, we study the overlap and distinction between brain activations related to irritability and excitability during emotion processing. We utilize functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify brain regions with increased activity during tasks evoking emotional reactions and while children are regulating their emotional response. Increasing our understanding of the neural correlates of excitability and irritability may not only improve our understanding of how the brain regulates emotions and how this is impacted by ADHD, but also allow for targeted interventions for children with ADHD and emotion dysregulation.

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