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Brain Mechanisms of Childhood Irritability

We are currently recruiting participants for this study. Click here to learn more!

All children can become irritable, cranky, and grumpy sometimes. However, some children are more irritable than others, with an increased tendency to experience anger and frustration in comparison with their peers. Severe, chronic irritability can cause significant problems at home, at school and with peers. In addition, childhood irritability has been linked to various adverse outcomes later in life including anxiety, depression (Brotman et al., 2006; Copeland, Shanahan, Egger, Angold, & Costello, 2014; Orri et al., 2018; Pickles et al., 2010; Savage et al., 2015; Stringaris & Goodman, 2009; Vidal-Ribas et al., 2016). Thus, a better understanding of the development and etiology of irritability in youth is important to generate knowledge to guide effective interventions and treatments.

In our study, we are using fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to identify patterns of brain activation and connectivity while youth are experiencing frustration. We hope to identify neural patterns that would predict changes in irritability over time and later outcomes. In addition, we are studying environmental factors (e.g., exposure to pollutants and chemicals), cognitive function, and social functioning (with family and peers) and their influences on youth’s irritability and brain function.