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Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2010 Sep;10(3):357-71. doi: 10.3758/CABN.10.3.357.

Adding fear to conflict: a general purpose cognitive control network is modulated by trait anxiety.

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University of California, Davis, California, USA.


Studies of cognitive control show that the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex are involved in the detection and resolution of cognitive conflict. However, the neural and behavioral mechanisms underlying emotional interference effects are less consistent. We used fMRI during emotional and nonemotional versions of a facial Stroop task to investigate the effects of emotional stimuli on cognitive control. In the full group there was limited evidence that different prefrontal circuits manage conflict arising from emotional and nonemotional distractors. However, individual differences in trait anxiety affected both behavioral performance and neural activity during the emotional task. Relative to low-anxiety (LA) subjects, high-anxiety (HA) subjects showed greater amygdala activity to task-relevant emotional information and impaired performance and greater conflict-related activity in the dACC when emotional content was task-irrelevant. Only LA subjects activated rostral ACC during the emotional task. This is consistent with cognitive models of individual differences that hypothesize deficient control of task-irrelevant emotional information in HA subjects. Additional behavioral and fMRI results from this study may be downloaded from

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