Cognitive Brain Event-Related Potentials and Emotion Processing in Maltreated Children

Seth D. Pollak, Dante Cicchetti, Rafael Klorman, Joan T. Brumaghim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

171 Scopus citations


Cognitive event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded from 23 maltreated and 21 nonmaltreated children. Children were presented with slides of Ekman photographs of a single model posing an angry (25%), a happy (25%), or a neutral (50%) facial expression. In 1 of 2 counterbalanced target conditions, children were asked to press a button in response to the angry face; in the other target condition, they responded to the happy face. Both samples, as expected, exhibited the largest amplitude of the P300 component of the ERP to target stimuli and the smallest amplitude to nontargets. For nonmaltreated children, the average amplitude of P300 across slides was comparable for the 2 target conditions. In contrast, maltreated children displayed larger P300 amplitude to stimuli when they were directed to attend to angry, as opposed to happy, targets. These results suggest different cognitive processing for positive versus negative affective expressions by children with histories of atypical emotional experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)773-787
Number of pages15
JournalChild Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1997
Externally publishedYes


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