NIH Research Festival
The flexible nature of human cognition relies on cognitive control mechanisms to facilitate goal-directed actions. Previous literature demonstrates that clinical anxiety promotes excessive inhibition, a subset of cognitive control. In this study, we investigate aberrant associations between anxiety and inhibitory processing, measured by saccadic eye movements, in 28 youths (M Age=14.72, SD=2.93) with a primary anxiety disorder (n=18) and no diagnosis (n=10). All participants completed a mixed-event version the anti-saccade task during which saccadic eye movements were measured using EyeLink 1000 Plus. Using the anti-saccade task, we assessed pro-saccades (PS), the initiation of a motor response toward a lateral target, and anti-saccades (AS), the initiation of a motor response away from the target. We first examined global performance through a series of independent t-tests and found no significant differences on PS trials, AS trials, and on corrected trials (all ps>.05). Next, we examined efficiency inhibitory preparatory control as measured by saccadic latency; the time elapsed between the appearance of a lateral target and the initiation of a motor response. Independent t-tests revealed no significant differences for all measures of latency (including latency to correct AS or PS, AS error latency, and time to correct an AS error, all, (ps>.05). We next examined anxiety as a dimensional symptom across all participants using child- and parent-reported anxiety symptoms. Results revealed no significant correlations between reported anxiety symptoms and measures of inhibition (all ps>0.05). Preliminary results suggest that inhibitory control may not be a hallmark characteristic of cognitive control in anxious youth.
Scientific Focus Area: Neuroscience
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