Trait susceptibility to worry modulates the effects of cognitive load on cognitive control: an ERP study

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Owens, Max J. ; Derakhshan, Nazanin ; Richards, Anne (2015)
  • Publisher: American Psychological Association
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1037/emo0000052
  • Subject: psyc
    mesheuropmc: behavioral disciplines and activities | psychological phenomena and processes

According to the predictions of Attentional Control Theory of Anxiety (ACT; Eysenck, Derakshan, Santos, & Calvo, 2007) worry is a central feature of anxiety that interferes with the ability to inhibit distracting information necessary for successful task performance. However, it is unclear how such cognitive control deficits are modulated by task demands and by the emotionality of the distractors. A sample of 31 participants (25 female) completed a novel flanker task with emotional and neutral distractors under low and high cognitive load conditions. The negative going N2 event-related potential was measured to index participants’ level of top-down resource allocation in the inhibition of distractors under high and low load conditions. Results showed N2 amplitudes were larger under high compared to low load conditions. In addition, under high but not low load, trait worry was associated with greater N2 amplitudes. Our findings support ACT predictions that trait worry adversely affects goal-directed behaviour and is associated with greater recruitment of cognitive resources to inhibit the impact of distracting information under conditions where cognitive resources are taxed.
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