Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2022

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Biology & Biomedical Sciences (Neurosciences)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Humans require a shared understanding of others’ emotions for adaptive social functioning. For instance, if someone tells a joke and another person laughs, we assume the laughing person was happy because we have a shared concept for such positive interactions. Children develop and refine these concepts as they grow up, but the underlying neural processing that supports this development is unknown. Identifying the neurodevelopment underlying emotion processing could provide important insight to emotional disorders. For example, social anxiety is associated differences in the detection and interpretation of negative or neutral emotional cues, but the underlying neurodevelopment of this behavior is unknown. In these studies, we therefore aim to 1) develop a method for using movies to index naturalistic emotion processing, 2) characterize the neural correlates of emotion processing across a large sample of children, and 3) characterize differences in naturalistic emotion processing among children high in social anxiety symptoms. We created a reliable and externally-validated method for using movie stimuli to index naturalistic emotion processing and applied it to videos used in a large sample of 5-to-15-year-olds. We found evidence for dissociable cortex wide activation signatures in relation to naturalistic emotion processing that were relatively consistent across age. Increased social anxiety symptoms were associated with more variable activation to scenes high in sensory intensity. Social anxiety symptoms were unrelated to activation to specific emotional content. Through this work, we have advanced knowledge of how the brain processes naturalistic emotion cues, how these activation patterns develop, and how this process may be altered in children high in social anxiety.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Deanna M. Barch

Committee Members

Joseph P. Culver, Deanna J. Greene, Cynthia E. Rogers, Chad M. Sylvester,