The goal of this proposal is to expand upon understanding of experiences with social rejection and related psychopathological outcomes during adolescence by implementing a translational program of research including both experimental neuroimaging and behavioral techniques. Examining subjective distress and neural responses during both personal experiences and observations of others' experiences with social rejection will help reveal why peer rejection is particularly salient during adolescence and explain how individual differences in psychopathological outcomes may develop. Participants will undergo a simulated experience of social rejection and observe another individual's experience of social rejection during an fMRI scan. Using this methodology, it will be possible to observe brain activity related to social distress and regulation of this distress throughout these two different rejection experiences. Participants will complete behavioral measures of their subjective feelings and attributions during, and immediately following, the rejection experiences. In addition, participants and their parents will complete ratings of mental health symptomatology at the same time point as the rejection experience, as well as one year following the fMRI scan. fMRI and behavioral data collected in this study will be used to examine: (1) neural mechanisms underlying adolescents' experience and regulation of distress related to social exclusion; (2) the psychological impact and neural mechanisms associated with 'empathic' social exclusion experiences; and (3) how direct and empathic experiences with social rejection are related to concurrent and longitudinal psychological outcomes. The long-term objectives of the proposed research include the identification of basic neural mechanisms underlying experiences with social rejection that may explain why peer rejection is particularly salient during adolescence, as well as neural links between experiences with social rejection and negative mental health outcomes across this stage of development.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed project is particularly relevant for research in public health given the current interest in peer bullying and victimization during adolescence and resulting clinical outcomes that can last long-term across development. Given the prevalence of these behaviors during adolescence, understanding the antecedents and consequences of social rejection experiences is important for all adolescents, whether they are witness to, or a victim of, these behaviors. Identifying the neural mechanisms and psychopathological symptoms related to experiences with social rejection will inform intervention strategies relevant for all adolescents. ? ? ?

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-F12B-N (20))
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Sesma, Michael A
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University of California Los Angeles
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Los Angeles
United States
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Masten, Carrie L; Eisenberger, Naomi I; Pfeifer, Jennifer H et al. (2013) Associations among pubertal development, empathic ability, and neural responses while witnessing peer rejection in adolescence. Child Dev 84:1338-54
Masten, Carrie L; Eisenberger, Naomi I; Borofsky, Larissa A et al. (2011) Subgenual anterior cingulate responses to peer rejection: a marker of adolescents' risk for depression. Dev Psychopathol 23:283-92
Masten, Carrie L; Colich, Natalie L; Rudie, Jeffrey D et al. (2011) An fMRI investigation of responses to peer rejection in adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Dev Cogn Neurosci 1:260-70