The task involved three tests in which children were asked to press a button on a screen corresponding to the location of a target. After a baseline run, the participants were told they could win or lose 10 cents for each correct or wrong response. On the third test run, the results were rigged so that the children were told they would lose 10 cents on slightly more than half of their correct responses, thereby manipulating emotional demands and inducing frustration.
After each task the children were asked to rate their responses to that task, reward, and punishment using the Self-Assessment Manikin with line-drawings showing extremes of happy or unhappy (to assess valence), or calm or aroused (to assess arousal).
The authors measured the children's mood response, behavior (reaction time and accuracy), and brain activity (event-related potentials).
They found that both the children with severe mood dysregulation and narrow-phenotype bipolar disorder reported significantly more arousal than controls when they were frustrated, but that the arousal resulted in different behavioral and psychophysiological performance between the patient groups.