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Pubertal Maturation Moderates the Relationship between Striatal Activation to Social Reward and Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder in At-Risk Girls
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) typically onsets in adolescence when fronto-striatal systems undergo maturational changes. Altered striatal activation to reward cues has been reported in adolescents with or at-risk for SAD. We examined neural activation to social reward in girls at risk for anxiety disorders and tested the moderating effect of puberty on the relationship between neural activation and later SAD symptoms. Girls(n=59; age 11-13), recruited varying in level of risk for anxiety disorders based on temperament assessment, completed a modified version of the fMRI Social Incentive Delay task. An ROI mask was constructed based on maps from Neurosynth.org (terms: social(z>3.30), reward(z>8.84), and punishment(z>4.45)–all FDR,p<.05). Analyses were conducted using AFNI’s 3dttest(-Clustsim,p<.001, ke=23 voxels). Linear regression analyses focused on the moderating effects of puberty on neural activation to social reward anticipation and later SAD symptoms.Task-related analyses indicated greater activation in the caudate and medial frontal gyrus (MFG) to reward (vs neutral) anticipation. Reduced caudate activation to social reward anticipation predicted higher levels of SAD symptoms at 18 months in girls who were in mid/late gonadarche, (R2=.25, Beta=-.41, t=-2.53, p=.016). Findings suggest that puberty-related changes in social reward processing may escalate the risk for SAD when increased sensitivity to reward typically occurs.