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Cereb Cortex. 2014 Jul;24(7):1858-66. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht036. Epub 2013 Feb 20.

Anxiety and performance: the disparate roles of prefrontal subregions under maintained psychological stress.

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Department of Neuropsychiatry, MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK.
Department of Neuropsychiatry, Department of Youth Mental Health, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan and.
Department of Neuropsychiatry.


Despite increasing interest in anxiety and psychological stress in daily life, little is known about neural correlates that underlie maintained psychological stress and their relationship with anxiety. In particular, the activation characteristics of lateral prefrontal subregions and their relationship with anxiety and cognitive performance under maintained psychological stress remain unknown. This study used near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), a noninvasive and "real-world" functional neuroimaging method, to investigate the hemodynamic responses in wide areas of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the influence of anxiety under conditions of maintained stress induced by a continuous arithmetic task (2 sets, 15 min each) performed in a natural sitting posture. Although anxiety and performance are not directly correlated, the hemodynamic response in the medial portion of the lateral PFC (dorsolateral and frontopolar PFC) was significantly associated with anxiety, while hemodynamic responses in the ventrolateral PFC were associated with performance. Additionally, in the same medial region of the lateral PFC, trait and state anxieties were related to changes in deoxy- and oxy-hemoglobin concentrations, respectively. This NIRS finding suggests disparate roles for prefrontal subregions in anxiety and performance under psychological stress and may lead to a better understanding of neural correlates for anxiety in everyday life.


anxiety; near-infrared spectroscopy; noninvasive monitoring; prefrontal subregions; psychological stress

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