Researcher ORCID Identifier


Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


W.M. Keck Science Department

Second Department


Reader 1

Cathy Reed PhD

Reader 2

Dionne Bensonsmith PhD

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Rights Information

2022 Crystal C Anyanwu


The use of seclusion as a disciplinary practice in schools has been cited as an effective way to mitigate a child’s behavior if they pose a threat of imminent danger to others or themselves and an effective means of helping a child regulate their emotions. However, research has shown that this practice has resulted in psychological harm (e.g. traumatic stress responses), physical injuries, and death to both staff applying these techniques and the children experiencing them. The effects of seclusion on the neurodevelopment of children remain widely unknown. Traumatic stress has been shown to increase the volume of the amygdala and decrease the volume of the prefrontal cortex which may prohibit proper connectivity and could have long-term consequences for emotional regulation. The proposed experiment aims to investigate the influence seclusion has on neural responses to distressing images and what effect seclusion has on a child’s ability to emotionally regulate distressing images using cognitive reappraisal. To do so, we will recruit participants 10-11 years of age from high-diversity high-poverty school districts. Based on responses to a Seclusion Questionnaire participants will be divided into a seclusion and non-seclusion groups. Participants will complete the Child Revised Impact of Events Scale (CRIES-8), and the Pediatric Traumatic Stress Scale (PTSS) which will be used for statistical analysis. The experiment will use a 2 second instructional cue word (LOOK or LESS) followed by a neutral or fear-evoking image for 7.5 seconds which will be followed by a rating scale appearing for 2 seconds. During LOOK cues participants will be asked to notice their feelings and during LESS cues participants will be asked to reappraise the fear-evoking image by telling themselves a story that makes the image seem more positive. Functional MRI will be collected [25 axial slices (4mm thick, 1 mm skip), 3T (GE Signa LX Horizon Echospeed), T2* sensitive gradient TR= 2.00, TE= 30 ms, 60° flip angle, 24-cm field view, 64x64 data acquisition matrix] and preprocessed using standard SPM12 pipeline. Data analysis will compare group responses in the emotion and reappraisal conditions. It is expected that, compared to the non-seclusion group, children in the seclusion group will show activity in the amygdala during the fear condition and that the medial prefrontal cortex will be less able to down-regulate the amygdala during reappraisal. One important implication of this proposed study is that determining these neural consequences can push policy makers to develop non-punitive trauma-informed approaches that regulate children’s behavior.