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Worry is associated with inefficient functional activity and connectivity in prefrontal and cingulate cortices during emotional interference.

Barker, Holly; Munro, James; Orlov, Natasza; Morgenroth, Elenor; Moser, Jason; Eysenck, Michael W.; Allen, Paul


Holly Barker

James Munro

Natasza Orlov

Elenor Morgenroth

Jason Moser

Michael W. Eysenck

Paul Allen


Anxiety is known to impair attentional control particularly when Task demands are high. Neuroimaging studies generally support these behavioral findings, reporting that anxiety is associated with increased (inefficient) activity in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) during attentional control Tasks. However, less is known about the relationship between worry (part of the cognitive dimension of trait anxiety) and DLPFC/ACC function and connectivity during attentional control. In the present study, we sought to clarify this relationship.
Forty‐one participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during a composite Faces and Scenes Task with high and low emotional interference conditions. Individual worry levels were assessed using the Penn State Worry Questionnaire.
During high but not low emotional interference, worry was associated with increased activity in ACC, DLPFC, insula, and inferior parietal cortex. During high emotional interference, worry was also associated with reduced functional connectivity between ACC and DLPFC. Trait anxiety was not associated with changes in DLPFC/ACC activity or connectivity during either Task condition.
The results are consistent with cognitive models that propose worry competes for limited processing resources resulting in inefficient DLPFC and ACC activity when Tasks demands are high. Limitations of the present study and directions for future work are discussed.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 17, 2018
Online Publication Date Oct 30, 2018
Publication Date Oct 30, 2018
Deposit Date Nov 9, 2018
Publicly Available Date Nov 13, 2018
Journal Brain and Behavior
Print ISSN 2162-3279
Electronic ISSN 2157-9032
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 8
Issue 12
Article Number e01137
Keywords Anterior cingulate, anxiety, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, functional magnetic resonance imaging, worry
Public URL
Contract Date Nov 9, 2018


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© 2018 The Authors. Brain and Behavior published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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