Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jillian Grose-Fifer

Committee Members

Yu Gao

Jennifer Mangels

Robert Melara

Deborah Walder

Subject Categories

Cognitive Neuroscience | Developmental Psychology | Psychology


Emotion, Flanker, ERN, N2, self-regulation, adolescents


It is hypothesized that prefrontal cortex (PFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) function may be still under development in adolescents. As the generator of the error-related negativity (ERN) and the N2, the ACC is expected to be sensitive to the degree of development with age. In adults, these top-down control areas ideally serve to direct attention to goal-relevant information, which can increase the likelihood of making a correct choice, even in fast-response laboratory based tasks. However, adolescents may show increased susceptibility in these top-down control areas when the stimulus is social and emotional. In the first study, event-related potentials were recorded while adolescents (15-17 years and adults (25-35 years) completed both a traditional letter, and emotional face flanker task. The results generally showed that behavioral performance on the tasks in adolescents was similar to adults, while ERP evidence showed age-related immaturities in the emotional face flanker task, but not the traditional letter flanker task. Using the same methods as the first study, the second study tested the utility of ERN and N2 as biomarkers of risky behavior. Self-report measures of behavior associated with risk-taking such as the Sensation Seeking Scale, were correlated with the ERN and N2 in an independent sample of 18-25 year olds (emerging adults). The results generally showed that the ERN and N2 were not good predictors of questionnaire outcomes. Overall, the lengthy paradigm employed in the current studies may have decreased sensitivity to the effects of emotion on self-regulation, by both ego-depletion and habituation.