Neurophysiological correlates of attention behavior in early infancy: Implications for emotion regulation during early childhood

Nicole B. Perry, Margaret M. Swingler, Susan D. Calkins, Martha Ann Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Current theoretical conceptualizations of regulatory development suggest that attention processes and emotion regulation processes share common neurophysiological underpinnings and behavioral antecedents such that emotion regulation abilities may build on early attentional skills. To further elucidate this proposed relationship, we tested whether early neurophysiological processes measured during an attention task in infancy predicted in-task attention behavior and whether infants' attention behavior was subsequently associated with their ability to regulate emotion during early childhood (N = 388). Results indicated that greater electroencephalogram (EEG) power change (from baseline to task) at medial frontal locations (F3 and F4) during an attention task at 10 months of age was associated with concurrent observed behavioral attention. Specifically, greater change in EEG power at the right frontal location (F4) was associated with more attention and greater EEG power at the left frontal location (F3) was associated with less attention, indicating a potential right hemisphere specialization for attention processes already present during the first year of life. In addition, after controlling for 5-month attention behavior, increased behavioral attention at 10 months was negatively associated with children's observed frustration to emotional challenge at 3 years of age. Finally, the indirect effects from 10-month EEG power change at F3 and F4 to 3-year emotion regulation via infants' 10-month behavioral attention were significant, suggesting that infants' attention behavior is one mechanism through which early neurophysiological activity is related to emotion regulation abilities during childhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-261
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by Grants HD049878 and HD043057 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) awarded to the last author. The content of this article is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NICHD or the National Institutes of Health. We are grateful to the families for their participation in our research and to our research teams at Blacksburg and Greensboro for their assistance with data collection and coding.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc.


  • Attention
  • Behavioral regulation
  • EEG power
  • Early childhood
  • Emotion regulation
  • Infancy


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