Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 260932
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

Final Report Summary - ANXIETY MECHANISMS (Neurocognitive mechanisms of human anxiety: identifying andtargeting disrupted function.)

Across a number of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, we have investigated the neuro-cognitive substrate of anxiety. In a series of initial studies, we examined how individuals high in trait vulnerability to anxiety differ from those with low trait anxiety levels. Here, we found that individuals showing a specific cognitive profile of anxiety (high on worry) showed increases in prefrontal cortical functional connectivity with ‘default mode’ cortical regions implicated in mind wandering. Meanwhile, high scores on more general measures of trait anxiety, including physiological as well as cognitive symptoms, were linked to reduced connectivity between ventromedial frontal cortex and the amygdala both at rest and when participants were exposed to a stressor (Bijsterbosch et al., 2014, 2015, JOCN). Alterations in frontal and amygdala function have been linked to biases in both attention and decision making. We sought to investigate this across a number of additional studies. In one, we recruited patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and healthy controls. Within the patient groups, resting-state connectivity within a limbic network including both the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex predicted attentional capture by threat distractors in a subsequent task. We have since devised a real-time neuro-feedback pipeline to investigate whether patterns of multivariate activity across the amygdala, frontal cortex, or other regions of interest differentiate periods of good attentional focus from those of poor attentional focus and if this can be used to train attention in individuals with anxiety or depression. In other work, we have found alterations in prefrontal function to mediate the relationship between trait anxiety and biases in decision-making under ambiguity (a form of second order uncertainty that arises when information is missing). In addition, we have found that trait anxiety is linked to impoverished adaptation of learning to changes in contingency stability – a second form of second order uncertainty (Browning et al., Nature Neuroscience, 2015). This work is currently being taken forward into research with clinical populations.

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United Kingdom
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