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The impact of anxiety on neural activation during the dot-probe task in adolescents

Friday, November 08, 2013 — Poster Session III

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

FAES Academic Center (Upper-Level Terrace)




  • E.G. Ronkin
  • D.S. Pine
  • J.C. Britton


Anxious individuals tend to preferentially allocate their attention toward threatening information. This bias, an attention bias toward threat (ABT), is implicated in anxiety disorders in both children and adults (Bar-Haim, et al., 2007). In anxious youth, neuroimaging work suggests that ABT is associated with perturbations in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (Britton et al., 2011) and amygdala (Monk et al., 2008). Extending this work, the current study investigated relations between anxiety in healthy adolescents, ABT, and neural activation. Twenty-four healthy controls (M(age)=13.51 years, SD=2.32) completed the study. Anxiety was assessed via self- and parent-report on the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Disorders. ABT was assessed using a dot-probe task, which participants completed in the functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner. Results revealed no ABT in the current sample [p>0.5]. Anxiety symptoms were significantly associated with decreased amygdala activation [(31, -1, -14), F=21.3, 24 voxels]; this relation did not vary as a function of ABT. This unexpected correlation may reflect amygdala activation in the context of an attention-related task. Future work comparing anxiety within clinical and non-clinical populations is needed to further explore and clarify the effect of anxiety on ABT and amygdala activation in the context of a dot-probe task.

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