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Emotion. 2013 Dec;13(6):1096-106. doi: 10.1037/a0033531. Epub 2013 Aug 5.

The neural correlates of impaired attentional control in social anxiety: an ERP study of inhibition and shifting.

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Department of Psychology, Oklahoma State University.


Cognitive models of social anxiety disorder posit that maladaptive thought processes play an etiological role in symptoms. The current study tested whether socially anxious individuals (HSAs) demonstrated impaired processing efficiency at the neural and behavioral level, and whether this was exacerbated by self-focused attention. Thirty-two (16 socially anxious, 16 nonanxious controls) subjects completed a mixed-antisaccade task with an oddball instructional cue. To manipulate self-focus, participants were told that the oddball cue indicated elevated heart rate. The HSA group demonstrated delayed saccade onset compared with controls, but made fewer errors. HSAs also had lower P3b amplitude compared with controls, suggesting reduced availability of resources for discriminating cues, and later P3b latency during self-focus trials, suggesting delayed cue categorization. Additionally, HSAs had greater CNV negativity compared with controls, suggesting greater effort in response preparation, and this negativity was reduced during self-focus trials, supporting the hypothesis that self-focused attention preoccupies executive resources. The current study supports and expands cognitive theories by documenting impaired neural and behavioral functioning in social anxiety and the role of self-focused attention in these deficits.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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