Working Memory Load and Negative Picture Processing: Neural and Behavioral Associations With Panic, Social Anxiety, and Positive Affect.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND:Internalizing disorders such as anxiety may be characterized by an imbalance between bottom-up (stimulus-driven) and top-down (goal-directed) attention. The late positive potential (LPP) can be used to assess these processes when task-irrelevant negative and neutral pictures are presented within a working memory paradigm. Prior work using this paradigm has found that working memory load reduces the picture-elicited LPP across participants; however, anxious individuals showed a reduced effect of working memory load on the LPP, suggesting increased distractibility. METHODS:The current study assessed transdiagnostic associations between specific symptom dimensions of anxiety, the LPP, and behavior in a clinically representative, heterogeneous group of 76 treatment-seeking patients with internalizing disorders, who performed a working memory task interspersed with negative and neutral pictures. RESULTS:As expected, negative pictures enhanced the LPP, and working memory load reduced the LPP. Participants with higher social anxiety showed increased LPPs to negative stimuli during early and late portions of picture presentation. Panic symptoms were associated with reduced LPPs to negative pictures compared with neutral pictures as well as a reduced effect of working memory load on the LPP during the late time window. Reduced positive affect was associated with greater behavioral interference from negative pictures. CONCLUSIONS:Hypervigilance for negative stimuli was uniquely explained by social anxiety symptoms, whereas panic symptoms were associated with the opposing effect-blunted processing/avoidance of these stimuli. Panic symptoms were uniquely associated with reduced top-down control. Results reveal distinct associations between neural reactivity and anxiety symptom dimensions that transcend traditional diagnostic boundaries.
PROVIDER: S-EPMC6197936 | BioStudies |