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Objective: At the broadest level, self-regulation (SR) refers to a range of separate, but interrelated, processes (e.g., working memory, inhibition, and emotion regulation) central for the regulation of cognition, emotion, and behavior that contribute to a plethora of health and mental health outcomes. SR skills develop rapidly in early childhood, but their neurobiological underpinnings are not yet well understood. The amygdala is one key structure in negative emotion generation that may disrupt SR. In the current study, we investigated the associations between neonatal amygdala volumes and mother-reported and observed child SR during the first 3 years of life. We expected that larger neonatal amygdala volumes would be related to poorer SR in children. Method: We measured amygdala volumes from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) performed at age M = 3.7 ± 1.0. We examined the associations between the amygdala volumes corrected for intracranial volume (ICV) and (a) parent-reported indicators of SR at 6, 12, and 24 months (N = 102) and (b) observed task-based indicators of SR (working memory and inhibitory control) at 30 months of age in a smaller subset of participants (N = 80). Results: Bilateral neonatal amygdala volumes predicted poorer working memory at 30 months in girls, whereas no association was detected between amygdalae and inhibitory control or parent-reported SR. The left amygdala by sex interaction survived correction for multiple comparisons. Conclusions: Neonatal amygdala volume is associated with working memory, particularly among girls, and the association is observed earlier than in prior studies. Moreover, our findings suggest that the neural correlates for parent-reported, compared to observed early life SR, may differ. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





285 - 299


Amygdala, Child Development, Child, Preschool, Emotional Regulation, Emotions, Executive Function, Female, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Memory, Short-Term, Organ Size, Self-Control