Neural Cognitive Control Moderates the Relation between Negative Life Events and Depressive Symptoms in Adolescents

Dominique Maciejewski*, Alexis Brieant, Jacob Lee, Brooks King-Casas, Jungmeen Kim-Spoon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The present longitudinal study examined the role of neural cognitive control in the relation between negative and positive life events and depressive symptoms in adolescents. The sample comprised 138 adolescents (52% male, Mage = 13.49 at baseline) and their parents. At Time 1, adolescents participated in a functional neuroimaging session in which neural cognitive control was measured as hemodynamic activity during an inhibitory control task, and parents reported on adolescents’ positive and negative life events within the past year. Adolescents and parents reported on adolescent depressive symptoms at Time 1, Time 2 (1 year later), and Time 3 (2 years later). Conditional latent growth curve model was used to test the main and interaction effects of neural cognitive control and positive/negative life events on the growth factors of depressive symptoms. Higher neural cognitive control moderated the relation between negative life events and the intercept of depressive symptoms. Adolescents with higher neural cognitive control did not experience higher depressive symptoms when confronted with more negative life events, whereas their counterparts with lower neural cognitive control did. The interaction effect between neural cognitive control and positive life events on depressive symptoms was not significant. Results suggest that neural cognitive control acts as a protective factor such that adolescents with higher neural cognitive control are protected against depressionogenic effects of negative life events, whereas adolescents with lower cognitive control are at greater risk for depressive symptoms in response to negative life events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-133
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020

Cite this