Frontal EEG Asymmetry in Relation to Withdrawal, Approach, and Attention Behaviors

Open Access
Eddinger, Rebecca Lynn
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Kristin Buss, Thesis Supervisor
  • Blair Hedges, Honors Advisor
  • frontal asymmetry
  • child development
  • social anxiety
  • attention
Several studies have examined the relationship between frontal electroencephalograph (EEG) asymmetry and withdrawal/approach patterns in children. The observed variability in left and right frontal EEG asymmetry has identified right frontal asymmetry as a predictor of inhibitory behavior and negative affect, and, in contrast, a left frontal asymmetry association with approach behavior and positive affect. This current study replicates these frontal EEG asymmetry patterns in relation to withdrawal/approach behaviors, and extends the exploration of correlating frontal asymmetry with attentional networks. EEG was recorded for 34 children, ages four to eight, during baseline tasks and stranger approaches. The videos were coded for distress and positive affect, as well as boldness and shyness behaviors, during the stranger approaches. Children then completed a child-friendly version of the Attention Network Test (ANT) to estimate alerting, orienting, and executive control functions. Additional behavioral data for the children was obtained from parent reports. For analysis, the children were divided into categories of “Left Frontal Asymmetry” and “Right Frontal Asymmetry” based on location of greater activation as recorded by EEG. In accordance with the current literature, the children with right frontal asymmetry had greater scores for parent reported fear. Additionally, children with right asymmetry showed poor executive control function in ANT tasks involving conflict. In comparison, the children classified as left frontal exhibited greater orienting function and executive control during attention tasks. Parent reports of attentional focusing suggest that the children with left frontal asymmetry have greater attention control. The findings from the current study provide evidence for the use of frontal asymmetry as a biomarker for behaviors associated with later social anxiety.