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Br J Psychiatry. 2001 Aug;179:144-50.

Autonomic reactivity and psychopathology in middle childhood.

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1
School of Public Health and the Institute of Human Development, University of California, Berkeley 94720-1190, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Better indicators are needed for identifying children with early signs of developmental psychopathology.

AIMS:

To identify measures of autonomic nervous system reactivity that discriminate children with internalising and externalising behavioural symptoms.

METHOD:

A cross-sectional study of 122 children aged 6--7 years examined sympathetic and parasympathetic reactivity to standardised field-laboratory stressors as predictors of parent- and teacher-reported mental health symptoms.

RESULTS:

Measures of autonomic reactivity discriminated between children with internalising behaviour problems, externalising behaviour problems and neither. Internalisers showed high reactivity relative to low-symptom children, principally in the parasympathetic branch, while externalisers showed low reactivity, in both autonomic branches.

CONCLUSIONS:

School-age children with mental health symptoms showed a pattern of autonomic dimorphism in their reactivity to standardised challenges. This observation may be of use in early identification of children with presyndromal psychopathology.

PMID:
11483476
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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