Social exclusion modulates event-related frontal theta and tracks ostracism distress in children

Academic Article


  • © 2015 Elsevier Inc. Social exclusion is a potent elicitor of distress. Previous studies have shown that medial frontal theta oscillations are modulated by the experience of social exclusion. Using the Cyberball paradigm, we examined event-related dynamics of theta power in the EEG at medial frontal sites while children aged 8-12 years were exposed to conditions of fair play and social exclusion. Using an event-related design, we found that medial frontal theta oscillations (4-8. Hz) increase during both early (i.e., 200-400. ms) and late (i.e., 400-800. ms) processing of rejection events during social exclusion relative to perceptually identical "not my turn" events during inclusion. Importantly, we show that only for the later time window (400-800. ms) slow-wave theta power tracks self-reported ostracism distress. Specifically, greater theta power at medial frontal sites to "rejection" events predicted higher levels of ostracism distress. Alpha and beta oscillations for rejection events were unrelated to ostracism distress at either 200-400. ms or 400-800. ms time windows. Our findings extend previous studies by showing that medial frontal theta oscillations for rejection events are a neural signature of social exclusion, linked to experienced distress in middle childhood.
  • Published In

  • NeuroImage  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 17918247
  • Author List

  • van Noordt SJR; White LO; Wu J; Mayes LC; Crowley MJ
  • Start Page

  • 248
  • End Page

  • 255
  • Volume

  • 118