Abstract # 22:

Scheduled for Saturday, September 17, 2011 11:45 AM-12:00 PM: Session 5 (Meeting Room 408) Oral Presentation


P. G. Judge1,2, D. W. Evans1,3, K. Canavera1, A. S. Pietrefesa1, A. M. Weinstein1, S. M. Buonocore1 and W. M. Brown1
1Bucknell University, Department of Psychology, Lewisburg, PA 17837, USA, 2Program in Animal Behavior, 3Program in Neuroscience

Rates of self-directed behavior (SDB) are frequently used in studies of non-human primates as an indicator of arousal and anxiety as, for example, when an animal increases scratching after being involved in aggression. Higher rates of such behavior have also been linked to an inability to inhibit learned responses in tasks such as reversal learning. We attempted to verify this connection by correlating performance on response inhibition tasks to rates of SDB and other identified nervous responses (e.g., hair-twirling, finger tapping) in 23 children (Homo sapiens) 4-9 years of age. Children were videotaped for a five-minute session in which they were instructed to inhibit a response (i.e., touching candy). Rates of SDB and other nervous responses occurring in these sessions were calculated and correlated to performance on two response-inhibition tasks. Rates of SDB and other “nervous responses” were positively associated with latencies to respond during rule-switching on a global-local sorting task (r(22)=.72, p<.0001). SDB was also positively correlated with errors of commission on a go/no-go response suppression task (r(22)=.44, p=.04). Task performance was not correlated to other subcategories of behavior identified during the videotaped sessions (e.g., vocalizations, gross limb, body, or head movement). Results are consistent with those from a variety of animals (birds, non-human primates, and other species) linking behavioral indicators of anxiety to executive function tasks involving frontal lobe inhibition of perseverative behavior. As such, results help establish the external validity of using SDB as an indicator of anxiety in studies of primates.