Workpackage 4: Psychophysiology & Neuroendocrinology
Objectives and Tasksk of the Workpackage
This WP is led by the associate professor of VU medical centre, VUA, Amsterdam, Dr Arne Popma.
Within this WP we aim at a better understanding of the activity of the Autonomic Nervous System within girls with Conduct Disorder (CD). In earlier studies the autonomic nervous system has been related to emotion regulation and dysregulation. Knowledge about the activity of the autonomic nervous system might be important to define specific needs, to be able to assign specific interventions.
The autonomic nervous system consists of two antagonistically operating systems: sympathetic and parasympathetic system. The baseline activity and reactivity of both systems will be determined in boys and girls with Conduct Disorder and in both male and female healthy controls. To do so, we use a special device (VU-Ams) with which we can assess heart rate and skin conductance while the participants do several tasks. For example, we ask the participants to watch a sad movie. Besides asking for their reaction (“how did you feel when you were watching the film?”), we measure their physiological reaction.
Besides heart rate we measure hormone levels. Specific hormone levels (e.g. cortisol, also called ‘stress hormone’) seem to be aberrant in children that show behavioural problems. These hormones will be measured by collecting saliva from all participants.
For both the psychophysiological and neuroendocrinological measurements we are interested in comparing girls with Conduct Disorder with healthy girls, but also with boys with Conduct Disorder. The effects of puberty on psychophysiology and neuroendocrinology will be investigated, and we will study if these measures can help us to predict treatment response.