Background Anxiety symptoms gradually emerge during childhood and adolescence. Individual differences in behavioral inhibition (BI), an early-childhood temperament, may shape developmental paths through which these symptoms arise. Cross-sectional research suggests that level of early-childhood BI moderates associations between later anxiety symptoms and threat-related amygdala-prefrontal cortex (PFC) circuitry function. However, no study has characterized these associations longitudinally. Here, we tested whether level of early-childhood BI predicts distinct evolving associations between amygdala-PFC function and anxiety symptoms across development.Methods Eighty-seven children previously assessed for BI level in early childhood provided data at ages 10 and/or 13 years, consisting of assessments of anxiety and an fMRI-based dot-probe task (including threat, happy, and neutral stimuli). Using linear-mixed-effects models, we investigated longitudinal changes in associations between anxiety symptoms and threat-related amygdala-PFC connectivity, as a function of early-childhood BI.Results In children with a history of high early-childhood BI, anxiety symptoms became, with age, more negatively associated with right amygdala-left dorsolateral-PFC connectivity when attention was to be maintained on threat. In contrast, with age, low-BI children showed an increasingly positive anxiety-connectivity association during the same task condition. Behaviorally, at age 10, anxiety symptoms did not relate to fluctuations in attention bias (attention bias variability, ABV) in either group; by age 13, low-BI children showed a negative anxiety-ABV association, whereas high-BI children showed a positive anxiety-ABV association.Conclusions Early-childhood BI levels predict distinct neurodevelopmental pathways to pediatric anxiety symptoms. These pathways involve distinct relations among brain function, behavior, and anxiety symptoms, which may inform diagnosis and treatment.
- behavioral inhibition
- prefrontal cortex
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Applied Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health