Psychosocial intervention in at-risk adolescents: using event-related potentials to assess changes in decision making and feedback processing.


Developmental Neuroscience Unit, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, London, UK. [Email]


Decision making and feedback processing are two important cognitive processes that are impacted by social context, particularly during adolescence. The current study examined whether a psychosocial intervention could improve psychological wellbeing in at-risk adolescent boys, thereby improving their decision making and feedback processing skills. Two groups of at-risk adolescents were compared: those who were relatively new to a psychosocial intervention, and those who had engaged over a longer time period. Electroencephalography was recorded while the young people participated in a modified version of the Taylor Aggression Paradigm. The late positive potential (LPP) was measured during the decision phase of the task (where participants selected punishments for their opponents). The feedback-related negativity (FRN) and P3 components were measured during the task's outcome phase (where participants received 'win' or 'lose' feedback). Adolescents who were new to the intervention (the minimal-intervention group) were harsher in their punishment selections than those who had been engaged in the program for much longer. The minimal-intervention group also showed an enhanced LPP during the decision phase of the task, which may be indicative of immature decision making in that group. Analysis of the FRN and P3 amplitudes revealed that the minimal-intervention group was physiologically hypo-sensitive to feedback, compared with the extended-intervention group. Overall, these findings suggest that long-term community-based psychosocial intervention programs are beneficial for at-risk adolescents, and that event-related potentials can be employed as biomarkers of therapeutic change. However, because participants were not randomly allocated to treatment groups, alternative explanations cannot be excluded until further randomized controlled trials are undertaken.


Adolescent,Event-related potential,FRN,Intervention,LPP,Psychosocial,

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