Neural Correlates of Attentional Processing of Threat in Youth with and without Anxiety Disorders

Abstract

Late-stage attentional processing of threatening stimuli, quantified through event-related potentials (ERPs), differentiates youth with and without anxiety disorders. It is unknown whether early-stage attentional processing of threatening stimuli differentiates these groups. Examining both early and late stage attentional processes in youth may advance knowledge and enhance efforts to identify biomarkers for translational prevention and treatment research. Twenty-one youth with primary DSM-IV-TR anxiety disorders (10 males, ages 8–15 years) and 21 typically developing Controls (15 males, ages 8–16 years) completed a dot probe task while electroencephalography (EEG) was recorded, and ERPs were examined. Youth with anxiety disorders showed significantly larger (more positive) P1 amplitudes for threatening stimuli than for neutral stimuli, and Controls showed the opposite pattern. Youth with anxiety showed larger (more negative) N170 amplitudes compared with Controls. Controls showed significantly larger (more positive) P2 and P3 amplitudes, regardless of stimuli valence, compared with youth with anxiety disorders. ERPs observed during the dot probe task indicate youth with anxiety disorders display distinct neural processing during early stage attentional orienting and processing of faces; this was not the case for Controls. Such results suggest these ERP components may have potential as biomarkers of anxiety disorders in youth.

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Abbreviations

DSM-IV-TR:

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision

ADIS for DSM-IV: C/P:

Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule for DSM-IV: Child and Parent Versions

ERPs:

event-related potentials

EEG:

electroencephalogram

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Acknowledgements

Work on this project was supported by National Institute of Mental Health grants R34 MH097931 and R01 MH079943 to Jeremy W. Pettit and Wendy K. Silverman, a National Institute of Mental Health grant F31 MH105144-01A1 to Michele Bechor and a National Institute on Drug Abuse K01DA034125 grant to Michael J. Crowley. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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Bechor, M., Ramos, M.L., Crowley, M.J. et al. Neural Correlates of Attentional Processing of Threat in Youth with and without Anxiety Disorders. J Abnorm Child Psychol 47, 119–129 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-018-0424-8

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Keywords

  • Event-related potential
  • Youth
  • Anxiety
  • Attention