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The social regulation of threat-related attentional disengagement in highly anxious individuals.

Maresh EL, Beckes L, Coan JA - Front Hum Neurosci (2013)

Bottom Line: We examined the role of both state and trait anxiety in the link between social support and the neural response to threat.We found significant interactions between trait anxiety and threat condition in regions including the hypothalamus, putamen, precentral gyrus, and precuneus.These findings support past research suggesting that individuals high in anxiety tend to have elevated neural responses to mild or moderate threats but paradoxically lower responses to high intensity threats, suggesting a curvilinear relationship between anxiety and threat responding.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA, USA.

ABSTRACT
Social support may normalize stress reactivity among highly anxious individuals, yet little research has examined anxious reactions in social contexts. We examined the role of both state and trait anxiety in the link between social support and the neural response to threat. We employed an fMRI paradigm in which participants faced the threat of electric shock under three conditions: alone, holding a stranger's hand, and holding a friend's hand. We found significant interactions between trait anxiety and threat condition in regions including the hypothalamus, putamen, precentral gyrus, and precuneus. Analyses revealed that highly trait anxious individuals were less active in each of these brain regions while alone in the scanner-a pattern that suggests the attentional disengagement associated with the perception of high intensity threats. These findings support past research suggesting that individuals high in anxiety tend to have elevated neural responses to mild or moderate threats but paradoxically lower responses to high intensity threats, suggesting a curvilinear relationship between anxiety and threat responding. We hypothesized that for highly anxious individuals, shock cues would be perceived as highly threatening while alone in the scanner, possibly due to attentional disengagement, but this perception would be mitigated if they were holding someone's hand. The disengagement seen in highly anxious people under conditions of high perceived threat may thus be alleviated by social proximity. These results suggest a role for social support in regulating emotional responses in anxious individuals, which may aid in treatment outcomes.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Threat-of-shock paradigm. Each trial consisted of a 1-s threat (T) or safety (S) cue, a 4- to 10-s fixation cross, a 1-s end cue (during which a shock was administered on 17% of the threat trials), and a 4- to 10-s rest period before the start of the next trial.
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Figure 1: Threat-of-shock paradigm. Each trial consisted of a 1-s threat (T) or safety (S) cue, a 4- to 10-s fixation cross, a 1-s end cue (during which a shock was administered on 17% of the threat trials), and a 4- to 10-s rest period before the start of the next trial.

Mentions: During each condition, the participant observed twelve threat (a red “X” on a black background) and twelve safety (a blue “O” on a black background) cues in a random order for a total of twenty-four trials (Figure 1). The participant was informed that the threat cue indicates he or she has a 17% chance of being shocked (i.e., two of the twelve threat cues result in a shock), and the safety cue indicates he or she is safe from shock for that trial. To increase anticipatory anxiety in our participants, we did not apply the shock before the experimental procedure and instead used a uniform shock generated by a physiological stimulator (Coulbourn Instruments, Allentown, PA) that lasted for 20 ms at 4 mA. This current was selected to provide a shock that is uncomfortable but not painful.


The social regulation of threat-related attentional disengagement in highly anxious individuals.

Maresh EL, Beckes L, Coan JA - Front Hum Neurosci (2013)

Threat-of-shock paradigm. Each trial consisted of a 1-s threat (T) or safety (S) cue, a 4- to 10-s fixation cross, a 1-s end cue (during which a shock was administered on 17% of the threat trials), and a 4- to 10-s rest period before the start of the next trial.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3757296&req=5

Figure 1: Threat-of-shock paradigm. Each trial consisted of a 1-s threat (T) or safety (S) cue, a 4- to 10-s fixation cross, a 1-s end cue (during which a shock was administered on 17% of the threat trials), and a 4- to 10-s rest period before the start of the next trial.
Mentions: During each condition, the participant observed twelve threat (a red “X” on a black background) and twelve safety (a blue “O” on a black background) cues in a random order for a total of twenty-four trials (Figure 1). The participant was informed that the threat cue indicates he or she has a 17% chance of being shocked (i.e., two of the twelve threat cues result in a shock), and the safety cue indicates he or she is safe from shock for that trial. To increase anticipatory anxiety in our participants, we did not apply the shock before the experimental procedure and instead used a uniform shock generated by a physiological stimulator (Coulbourn Instruments, Allentown, PA) that lasted for 20 ms at 4 mA. This current was selected to provide a shock that is uncomfortable but not painful.

Bottom Line: We examined the role of both state and trait anxiety in the link between social support and the neural response to threat.We found significant interactions between trait anxiety and threat condition in regions including the hypothalamus, putamen, precentral gyrus, and precuneus.These findings support past research suggesting that individuals high in anxiety tend to have elevated neural responses to mild or moderate threats but paradoxically lower responses to high intensity threats, suggesting a curvilinear relationship between anxiety and threat responding.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA, USA.

ABSTRACT
Social support may normalize stress reactivity among highly anxious individuals, yet little research has examined anxious reactions in social contexts. We examined the role of both state and trait anxiety in the link between social support and the neural response to threat. We employed an fMRI paradigm in which participants faced the threat of electric shock under three conditions: alone, holding a stranger's hand, and holding a friend's hand. We found significant interactions between trait anxiety and threat condition in regions including the hypothalamus, putamen, precentral gyrus, and precuneus. Analyses revealed that highly trait anxious individuals were less active in each of these brain regions while alone in the scanner-a pattern that suggests the attentional disengagement associated with the perception of high intensity threats. These findings support past research suggesting that individuals high in anxiety tend to have elevated neural responses to mild or moderate threats but paradoxically lower responses to high intensity threats, suggesting a curvilinear relationship between anxiety and threat responding. We hypothesized that for highly anxious individuals, shock cues would be perceived as highly threatening while alone in the scanner, possibly due to attentional disengagement, but this perception would be mitigated if they were holding someone's hand. The disengagement seen in highly anxious people under conditions of high perceived threat may thus be alleviated by social proximity. These results suggest a role for social support in regulating emotional responses in anxious individuals, which may aid in treatment outcomes.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus