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J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2010 Jun;41(2):165-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2009.12.002. Epub 2009 Dec 28.

Future-oriented decision-making in Generalized Anxiety Disorder is evident across different versions of the Iowa Gambling Task.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Universitaet Marburg, Marburg, Germany. erik.mueller@staff.uni-marburg.de

Abstract

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and excessive worrying are characterized by a preoccupation with the future. Thus, enhanced identification of potential future punishments or omissions of reward may be related to the disorder. To test this hypothesis, n=47 students meeting GAD criteria according to the GADQ-IV (GAD analogues) or not (control participants) performed the Iowa Gambling Task, which has been related to sensitivity to future consequences. In order to disentangle sensitivity to future loss and sensitivity to high short-term loss magnitudes, which could also lead to enhanced Iowa Gambling Task performance, participants also performed a modified version of the task with reversed contingencies. In both versions, GAD analogues learned to avoid decisions with high probability of long-term loss significantly faster than control participants. Results, therefore, indicate that GAD is characterized by enhanced processing of potential future losses rather than sensitivity to large short-term loss.

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