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Sci Rep. 2016 Feb 19;6:21298. doi: 10.1038/srep21298.

Neural basis of uncertain cue processing in trait anxiety.

Zhang M1,2,3, Ma C1,2, Luo Y4, Li J1, Li Q5, Liu Y1,2,6, Ding C1,2, Qiu J1,2.

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Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality (SWU), Ministry of Education, Chongqing, China.
Faculty of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, China.
Department of Psychology, Xinxiang Medical University, Henan 453003, China.
School of Nursing, Xinxiang Medical University, Henan 453003, China.
Shanghai Mental Health Center, Shanghai 200030, China.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Florida, 100 Newell Drive, Gainesville, FL 32610-0256, USA.


Individuals with high trait anxiety form a non-clinical group with a predisposition for an anxiety-related bias in emotional and cognitive processing that is considered by some to be a prerequisite for psychiatric disorders. Anxious individuals tend to experience more worry under uncertainty, and processing uncertain information is an important, but often overlooked factor in anxiety. So, we decided to explore the brain correlates of processing uncertain information in individuals with high trait anxiety using the learn-test paradigm. Behaviorally, the percentages on memory test and the likelihood ratios of identifying novel stimuli under uncertainty were similar to the certain fear condition, but different from the certain neutral condition. The brain results showed that the visual cortex, bilateral fusiform gyrus, and right parahippocampal gyrus were active during the processing of uncertain cues. Moreover, we found that trait anxiety was positively correlated with the BOLD signal of the right parahippocampal gyrus during the processing of uncertain cues. No significant results were found in the amygdala during uncertain cue processing. These results suggest that memory retrieval is associated with uncertain cue processing, which is underpinned by over-activation of the right parahippocampal gyrus, in individuals with high trait anxiety.

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